My life stories – Part 11

My life Stories – Part 11
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

I wasn’t interested in getting into any love relationships or thought of getting married to someone, before I met my husband in 2005. I was nearly 35 years old and had never been in any relationship before, not even went out for a romantic outing with anyone. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend or a husband.

I wasn’t and am not perfect. I didn’t and don’t intend to be one. I don’t have a nice personality or attractive appearance, and don’t know how to behave appropriately when being in a relationship. My personality and behavior were far away from ladylike and gentleness. For many people, being direct and straightforward are being seen as bad attitude or weakness for socializing and interacting in the society. For countless times, I watched people always being friendly, polite and nice in front of some other people, but they can’t hold their tongues to complain and criticize about other people behind their backs. Of course that’s their freedom of thoughts, actions and speech. But, I’ll stay away from this type of social interactions of hypocrisy and back-biting as much as possible.

In yoga practice, we purify our minds until there’s no ill-will or ill-thinking about anyone. There’s nothing to complain about or criticize anyone whether in front or behind their backs. When we criticize about others, it’s not because others are bad and wrong, or when we compliment others, it’s not because others are good and right, but it’s our mind being impure and project impurities of good and bad qualities onto everyone and everything that our minds perceive through the senses, under the influence of personal likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements based on what our egoistic minds believe what things are.

I never interested to make myself or my appearance to be attractive to attract anyone’s attention and liking. If anyone doesn’t like me or disagree with my way of thinking and behavior, and if people feel intimidated or offended by my presence, I’ll let them be and I’ll stay away so that they will have peace. Those who suffer from low self-esteem will easily feel intimidated or offended by anyone and anything, even though nobody is intentionally being intimidating or offensive towards anyone. It has to come from their own effort to be free from low self-esteem, which is part of the egoism. If anyone wants to create unnecessary problems, I’ll leave immediately, and let them take the responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If anyone doesn’t appreciate me or doesn’t want to be in my life anymore, I’ll let them go. I don’t expect anyone to be nice to me and love me. I never try to please anyone so that they will love me or be nice to me. People will be nice to me and love me if they want, as they like, out of their free will. And I will be grateful and thankful for their love and kindness for me.

Compassion is not about trying to please everyone to make them feel good, happy and comfortable, by giving them whatever they like and want, to gratify their desires of craving and aversion. But it’s to allow everyone to be aware of what is going on in their minds, and realize the truth to be free from ignorance and egoism, and transcend suffering and realize unconditional love and peace that is not coming from anyone or anything outside this body and mind, but it’s beyond the impermanent life existence, beyond the body and mind, beyond all our actions and inactions, beyond all the good and bad qualities of name and form, and beyond all our relationships with everyone and everything. It’s from within oneself unconditionally when one is free from ignorance and egoism.

My husband said that I am a strange person and beyond confident. I rarely look into the mirror as I don’t mind at all how I look. I also don’t mind about how other people look at me and what they think of me. I am neither highly confident nor over confident, as I don’t need to feel confident at all. I don’t feel bad about myself, and I don’t think I am better than any others. It’s okay if others want to look down on me, that’s their freedom, but I don’t look down on anyone. What others want to think, act and say about other people is their freedom of thinking, action and speech, but what others think, act and say about me cannot determine what I am and am not. I don’t look up to anyone either. I respect all my teachers and appreciate those who inspire me, but I don’t try to become like them. I don’t need to agree or disagree with everyone with many different types of thinking and behavior. I respect everyone as they are, even if my mind thinks that they are not good and not right based on what my mind believes what is good and bad, right and wrong. And I admire nobody, even when my mind thinks that they are great and wonderful, based on what my mind believes what is great and wonderful. Most of the time, I don’t comment about anything and anyone.

There’s nothing wrong to give praise and compliments to others to encourage people to do good and continue to improve, but the one who needs encouragement of praise and compliments from others to motivate it to do good and continue to improve is the ego, and by giving the ego what it likes and wants won’t help to eliminate the ego, but it’s feeding and strengthening the ego instead. That’s why in traditional yoga classes, the teacher rarely gives praise and compliments, it isn’t that the teacher is arrogant or doesn’t appreciate the students’ good performances, but it’s not to feed and strengthen the ego of the yoga students. Those who are really practicing yoga don’t need any praise and compliments from anyone to motivate them to do good and continue to improve.

In many families in the modern society, when the parents want to ask the children to be doing something for themselves or for other people, the parents will try to encourage or motivate the children by giving them something that they like and want as rewards after they have done what they were asked to do. It’s about performing actions in exchange for something in return. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, this is completely the opposite of the teachings of yoga. The children will grow up with the idea that they will only be motivated to do something only if they can get something that they like and want in return. Or else they won’t be motivated to do anything, even if it’s something beneficial for themselves. In yoga, we perform actions for ourselves and for others out of our free-will and loving kindness, without expecting something that we like and want in return.

And so, it’s not easy to be friend with me, not to say for anyone to be in a relationship with me and shares life with me. I do my best to be kind to others, but not in the way that what other people expect kindness to be like. Instead, people might think that I am being unkind to them. But that’s their freedom of thinking and reaction.

Once, I went through a serious purification process where lots of rash and pimples appeared on my face and my whole body for more than one and a half years, I didn’t feel bad or worry, and didn’t try to do something to get rid of them. My husband saw me in such condition for many months, and he wanted to give me some money to go to a beauty salon to get some treatments, but I said to him, “No need. They will go away one day.” And they went away months later.

I only use hair shampoo once or twice a month and everyday I take shower with water only. I use soap only for washing my hands. My travelling wash bag contains only a toothbrush and toothpaste.

I don’t need to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. I don’t have a wedding ring or wedding photos. My husband once made a ring out of straw that he picked up from the ground while we were travelling in Varanasi and he gave it to me and told me that we were ‘officially’ married. On another time he secretly put three Bodhi leaves in my diary because I told him it was my first time saw a Bodhi tree when we were travelling in Rishikesh. I only realized the Bodhi leaves were there when I opened my diary a few days later. He also gave me three river stones that he found at the riverbank of the Ganges in Rishikesh. My husband doesn’t need to give me material things as presents as I am not interested in material things or presents. He doesn’t need to give me anything to show that he loves me, or for me to feel loved by him, or for me to love him. I love him as he is. I only appreciate life every moment, from day to day. I live everyday as it is and step by step. I don’t have future plans. I don’t need to own properties or things. I don’t need to have enjoyments. People like to say that we should do things that will make us happy, but I don’t need to do anything special that can make me happy, as I don’t need to feel happy. I am happy as I am.

I’ll share the stories from the past if it would help others to find a way to peace and freedom. But, I leave the past at where they belonged, I don’t keep them in the present. There will always be changes and unexpected happenings in life, some pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and people coming and going. I do my best to have peace in myself and stay away from meaningless and energy wasting human-made troubles as much as possible, and channel my life existence and energy to practice and teach yoga, and cultivate thoughts of may all be free from ignorance and have peace.

My husband is very different from me. He was gentle and romantic. My husband once tried to be romantic and sang a love song to me, but I thought he was just humming a song for himself, and I didn’t pay any attention to him and his singing. When he told me about it later, I said to him that I would try to learn to be more sensitive towards his love and affection for me.

I had been living on my own for many years, but I never felt lonely. And I fully enjoyed those peaceful and quiet moments being with myself. I have some good friends, and occasionally, I would visit them at their homes, or go out with them to have a coffee or lunch gathering. In the past, I didn’t have to tell or inform anyone about how I feel, what I am doing, where I am going, or when I will be coming back home, until my husband came to Malaysia to be with me in 2007. My parents never questioned me about all these things. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, but they didn’t need to worry for me at all.

I wasn’t and aren’t skillful in social interaction, or to engage in any social conversations. Most probably it’s because I was never interested in socializing, mingling, or accumulating personal friendships. Socializing, mingling and chit-chatting are good for worldly social interaction and public relation, but it is detrimental for yoga and meditation practice. It stimulates the thought waves and strengthens the worldly attachments, identifications and ideas, and empowering the desires of craving and aversion. Just list out what people usually talk about in a social conversation, and see how much our minds are being influenced and affected by all those daily conversations about worldly matters. And we might realize what is the cause for our minds being over stimulated and suffer from restlessness, and from where we have been accumulating lots of physical, emotional and mental tension that we need to de-stress or unwind ourselves from time to time. I never need to do something special to unwind myself, as I seldom accumulate unnecessary tension.

In most conversations, many people like to ask or want to know about the past and the future. Most people want to be friendly by starting a social interactive conversation, where they want to talk about themselves and also to hear other people talk about their stuffs, they want to give their opinions and also to hear other people’s opinions, they want to know about other people and want to be known by other people as well. There’s nothing wrong with the worldly social interactions between human beings. But in yoga practice, it’s about knowing oneself. It’s not about knowing other people or want to be known by other people. Minds that are conditioned by worldly thinking and ideas might think that it is a form of selfishness when some people don’t show interest to know about others. But in yoga, one practices disinterest in worldly affairs as well as other people’s affairs. It isn’t that yoga practitioners don’t care for what is happening to the world and other people, but one must take care of one’s mind first before one can care for the world and others efficiently.

When one’s mind is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving, aversion and all sorts of impurities, and realizes unconditional love and peace in oneself, being firmly resting in peace undisturbed by all the qualities of names and forms, then naturally, without any intention or expectation, one will be contributing peace into the world by stop generating unrest and disharmony into the world. By taking care of oneself, to have peace in oneself, is actually loving and caring for the world and the society.

One must learn about oneself and know about oneself by quieting and purifying the mind through self-introspection and self-discipline, and then one will know how to love and care for oneself, before one can actually know about others, and love and care for others. The entire society will become more peaceful and harmony when everyone learns about oneself, knows oneself, and loves and cares for oneself.

Instead of wasting energy in socializing or talking about worldly ideas and affairs, I conserve energy for practicing and teaching yoga. Talking about worldly ideas and affairs won’t help anyone to be free from worldly identifications and attachments towards worldly names and forms, and it won’t make the world to be a better place. In fact, talking about this and that will stimulate the mind, and it doesn’t help to quiet the mind. Yoga and meditation practice is mainly to quiet the mind. The states of the world will change towards peace and harmony only if each and everyone who are existing and living in the world has self-awareness and self-control, to make an effort to change themselves to purify and quiet their minds, to be free from ignorance and egoism. The world is just what it is. It is neither good nor bad. It’s the occupants of the world that are projecting good and bad qualities into the world and contributing peace or unrest into the world. The one who is pure, being free from good and bad qualities, perceives the world as it is.

Though I am not interested in accumulating personal social friendships, I do my best to be friendly to all. I don’t discriminate people into friends or not friends. There’s no special treatment towards certain people. Those who think they deserve to be treated in certain ways that they think they should be treated, they will only be disappointed by their own expectation. But it’s people’s freedom if they want to discriminate everyone into friends and not friends, and have expectation towards how other people should act and react, behave and response according to their own practices, beliefs and values, and they feel annoyed or offended by other people who have different actions and reactions, different behaviors and responses being influenced by different practices, beliefs and values.

In the teachings of yoga, friendliness is being kind and compassionate towards all and everyone without ill-will, prejudice or bias towards anyone and without discrimination of friends and not friends, likes and dislikes, good or bad behavior people. We have self-control over our actions and speech to stop generate actions and speech that will cause unrest and disharmony in others or in the society. We constantly be aware of the impurities in our minds, and unceasingly purify our minds to be free from all sorts of impurities, so that we won’t hurt ourselves and others out of the influence of impurities like anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, desires, lust, feelings of hurts, doubt, fear and worry.

There’s no possessiveness or attachment towards anyone to be ‘my friend’. There’s no expectation towards friendships for getting something that we want, like attention, acknowledgement, companionship, interaction, trust, care and support, or getting rid of something that we don’t want, like loneliness and boredom. There’s no expectation towards others that people have to be friendly and nice to us. We allow everyone to be friendly and nice to us, or not. We don’t feel offended when we don’t get the appropriate reactions that what most people expect to be getting from other people. We don’t expect people should react and behave in certain ways according to our own thinking, social ethics, cultural values, belief and practice. We respect all and everyone to be different from us for having different personalities, characteristics, behaviors, opinions, values, policies, thinking and beliefs. We don’t try to interfere with, or to control, or to change other people to be the way that we think they should be, but allowing everyone to be the way as they are.

If people feel hurt or disturbed by other people’s actions and reactions, that is their own responsibility coming from how their minds react towards all the perceptions of names and forms, influenced by their egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion and expectation based on their own particular conditioned thinking and beliefs. Those who are free from egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion and expectation based on certain conditioned thinking and beliefs, will not be hurt or disturbed by anything or anyone.

Being in a relationship and to share living space with another person was a great challenge for me in the beginning. There were lots of things I needed to learn, to adjust, to adapt, to accommodate, to tolerate, to accept, to let go of selfishness and the ego. But all these are parts of our yoga practice. And I am still learning.

My husband is a good man and a good husband. He is very friendly, kind-hearted and generous. It is very good karma to have him in my life. He loves me very much, and I appreciate his love for me and I love him as he is.

Before my husband came to Malaysia to be with me, I was teaching aerobics dance classes in and around Kuala Lumpur for living, while he was working in a refuge in the Pyrenees in France.

We met each other for the first time in the Sivananda Dhanwantari Yoga Vedanta Ashram in South India, where we did the International Yoga Teachers Training Course in January 2005.

Without any intentions, we talked about yoga and Buddhism for a few times during the one month course. I never asked him where he came from, where he lived, what he did in the past, what he was doing then, or who he was in general. I didn’t even know what nationality he has. I never interested in knowing about the past, or try to know anyone from where they come from, or what they do, or who they are.

He stayed back in the Ashram for another few months after the course ended, while I came back to Malaysia, continued to teach aerobics dance classes and yoga classes. I wrote him a letter sent to the Ashram after I came back, as I felt that he needed Dhamma at that time. The letter was all about Dhamma, there’s nothing romantic at all. He told me later that the letter meant a lot to him, and he had kept the letter with him all the time wherever he went, until now.

Without any intentions, we both attended the Advance Teachers Training Course in February 2006. My initial plan was to stay back in the Ashram to perform selfless service for three months after the course ended. I would stay longer if I had more money. But the savings that I had was only just enough for the course and for staying in the Ashram for three more months. I didn’t know that my plan would change, and my life too. A few days later after we met again for the second time, he asked me if I wanted to travel with him in India learning more yoga and meditation under different schools and teachers. I didn’t answer him at that time because I wanted to stay in the Ashram after the course, and I couldn’t afford to go travelling somewhere else. We kept a distance with each other in the Ashram as we respect the Ashram’s rule of male and female students’ segregation, and we didn’t say anything about it anymore.

Just a few days before the course finished, a spontaneous thought arose in my mind during one of the evening Satsang meditation sessions, that if he came to me right after the meditation finished and asked me to travel with him in India, then I would go with him. But if he didn’t come to me that night and didn’t ask me that question at that time, then I wouldn’t go with him, but stay in the Ashram for the next three months. And miraculously, as everyone was leaving the meditation hall, he was waiting for me at the exit and he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the side and asked me in the dark, “Do you want to travel with me in India?” And I said yes. So, we went travelling together in India after the course ended. We spent two and a half months together, where we came to know each other deeper. We both got really sick from food poisoning for a month from the first day we arrived in Delhi. During that time, we took turn to take care of each other at our worst condition.

Then he went back to France, while I came back to Malaysia without any expectation that we would see each other again. I mentioned to him before, that he could come to Malaysia to teach yoga with me if he wanted. We didn’t really have any contacts since then.

He went back to India for the third time in the end of 2006, while I was in Malaysia. I didn’t go to India. Nine months later after the last time we saw each other, he called me from India one afternoon, telling me that he had booked a flight to come to Malaysia. He came in February 2007 and never left. We got married in the end of 2008.

All relationships and life experiences will have ups and downs. It’s subject to impermanence or changes. When two people who come from different cultural backgrounds with different personalities come together, there will be some conflicts arise from time to time. It depends on the depth of our understanding, acceptance, adaptation, adjustment, accommodation, tolerance, forgiveness and letting go, for us to be able to stay cheerful and happy in life, disregard all the agreements and disagreements, likes and dislikes, ups and downs in life and in the relationship. But most important is we need to know what we really want in life for ourselves.

My mother tongue is Cantonese, and my second languages are Mandarin and Malay. Before my husband came to Malaysia living with me, I seldom spoke English in daily conversations except when I taught classes I used very simple and minimal English. My husband and I had many misunderstanding especially in the beginning because my English comprehension was really limited and I also have bad hearing due to constant shouting to teach aerobics classes under the loud music. My husband speaks very softly. I had to ask him to repeat his sentences again and again. It was frustrating for him. I used to talk very loud and fast, which was really difficult for my husband because he has sensitive hearing and suffers from tinnitus. He suffered a lot from my loud speaking. As years past by, I started to speak more softly and slowly. And my husband had to keep correcting my English pronunciations and the usage of tenses. It took me few years to learn to pronounce words like egg, eight, three, world, girl, file, wild, duck, abdomen, buttocks, wrists, necessarily, vocabulary, probably, and etc. Even now after many years speaking in English, I am still having trouble pronouncing words like thought, thigh, they and there. When I speak in English, I am actually translating directly from Chinese. And there are no tenses in Chinese language. My husband said that he couldn’t understand me and constantly misunderstood what I wanted to say because I didn’t know how to use the correct pronunciation and tenses to tell my stories or when I wanted to say something. But we understood that very well, and we learned to be patient and accommodate each other when we talked to communicate.

It didn’t and doesn’t matter to me about how other people perceive me, as I am what I am. I accept and love myself as I am. I don’t live my life according to the worldly thinking, beliefs, and current trends, to meet up other people’s expectation, neither will I try to please anyone by pretending to be somebody whom I am not. If people don’t like something or everything about me, it’s their freedom. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and unhappiness. Nobody can make another person happy or unhappy. If people want to be happy, no one can make them unhappy. If people want to be unhappy, no one can make them happy. When people feel happy is because they are getting something that they like and want, and are not getting what they don’t like and don’t want. When people feel unhappy is because they are getting something that they don’t like and don’t want, and are not getting what they like and want. It’s not because things or people are being good or bad, nice or not nice. Even my husband’s likes and dislikes, and his mind perception about me also cannot determine me, or change me, for what I am and how I think, act and feel. And I can’t make my husband happy. Neither can he make me happy. We are happy as we are.

Most of the time, the truth is not something agreeable or pleasant to the minds that are not free from attachment and identification towards certain conditioned thinking and beliefs influenced by ignorance and egoism. Most people perceive their own reality under the influence of conditional thinking and beliefs, they don’t see the truth as it is. Those who are not free from ignorance and egoism might have heard about the truth from others, but they might not like the truth, or don’t agree with the truth realized by others. Because they haven’t realized the truth through their own realization. They perceive everything based on their own thinking and beliefs and they live in their own personal reality. And people shouldn’t believe in the truth realized by others, even if it’s coming from Buddha or any saints and sages. Everyone has to realize the truth by themselves.

People want and expect the truth to be something that they like and want, that is agreeable to their own personal worldly thinking and beliefs. Everyone who attached to different thinking and beliefs would perceive their own personal reality differently from one another. Everyone has their own perception of reality that is being different from one another and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the universal truth is still the one same truth whether people like and agree with it, or not, whether people think and believe it’s the truth, or not. As the truth is not a belief, or intellectual analysis. It’s the way of how things are, as they are. But most people don’t want things to be what they are, but they want things to be the way that how they like and want it to be, or the way that they think it should be.

This also shows that how kind and loving is my husband for him to love me and accept me as I am. It’s a great challenge for him to be in a relationship with me and to share life with me.

That’s also why I am never interested in joining any ‘groups’. I am free to be who I am, as I am. And I am free from getting involve in gossips, vain talks, conflicts, condemn, criticism, and so on. When we have bad things to say about others, it’s not because others are being bad and wrong, but it’s because our minds are not pure. If our minds are pure, there’s no bad thing to say about others, even if we are aware of something that isn’t good and right about someone based on what our minds believe as good and bad, right and wrong. Worldly minded people might think that being silence towards things that are bad and wrong is supporting all those bad and wrong things. But, what people think and believe as good and bad, right and wrong, is very subjective, it’s not necessarily the truth of what things are. By being vocally and physically violent towards something that is bad and wrong won’t change the reality of those things being bad and wrong. But everyone must develop self-awareness and self-introspection in themselves to be aware of their own minds, to be initiative and make an effort to purify their own minds, and have self-control over their own thinking, actions and speech.

By telling people that they are ignorant or wrong and bad, won’t make people stop being ignorant or wrong and bad. It has to come from their own self-awareness and self-control.

I do things in my own ways and at my own pace. There’s no stress or tension. I’m not greedy to run a bigger retreat centre with higher capacity and income. We do everything by ourselves (my husband and I) within our own capacity. We don’t need to rely on any ’employees’ to run the yoga retreats. As it won’t be the same. It will become a business, with higher expenses and costs. We do all the teachings, cooking, driving, accommodation arrangement, emails response, website updates, cleaning, washing, maintenance, and shopping all by ourselves.

If some people don’t understand about what we do, we don’t expect that they should understand. If people aren’t really interested in the traditional yoga practice about quieting the mind through the annihilation of ignorance and egoism, and they don’t have the humility to learn and practice yoga, but they are only interested in joining some fitness yoga exercise classes, and they are not interested in our yoga retreats or what we teach, that’s their freedom. We will suggest to them to go to some other yoga fitness centres that might provide cheap and cheerful yoga exercise classes. As these people are not really interested in learning and practicing yoga. There are many yoga asana instructors in the world that will provide fitness yoga exercise classes to these people who only interested in doing some stretching, strength and flexibility fitness workout, to be able to do many yoga asana poses that they want to be able to do, and to look good and feel good about themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s their freedom. We would appreciate very much to have the free time to focus on our own personal practice.

Many people said that they are interested in yoga and they want to learn yoga, but when they hear the teachings of yoga about letting go of egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving and aversion, either their minds will start to be opened towards what they didn’t know before, and be able to see what is going on in their minds, or their minds will be rejecting what they don’t know, or what is contradicted to their existing thinking and beliefs, and they want to runaway from what they minds don’t like and don’t agree with. The stronger the ego is, the stronger the rejection towards the teachings of yoga about the annihilation of the ego will be.

I am responsible for my own thoughts, actions and speech within my own efforts, with self-awareness, self-discipline and conscience. I am always truthful to myself and others. I accept myself as I am, and I love myself as I am. I don’t need to be hypocrite or tell lies to justify myself to anyone. I respect other people who have their own different thinking, beliefs and behaviors. I don’t apply my own way of thinking, belief and behavior onto other people. I allow everyone to be different from me, and from one another. If other people don’t like the way that I am, or disagree with the teachings of yoga, that’s their freedom.

I just do my best within my ability and limitation. Some people being optimistic and they think and believe that they can change the world, that’s their freedom. But even Buddha never claimed that being enlightened and be free from ignorance and suffering could change the world. Buddha didn’t have intention to change the world or have expectation that the world will be changed by his enlightenment, his presence, or by the teachings of Buddhism. He just shared the path towards liberation. Naturally, one will be contributing peace and harmony into the world and stop contributing unrest and disharmony into the world, when one attains unconditional love and peace being free from ignorance and suffering.

Although I don’t belong to any groups, but I respect everyone has their own groups, where they think they belong to, or if people feel the need to attach onto certain identifications and to obtain certain recognition to be who they are. Some people think that they need to mix into certain groups and be accepted by those groups, to feel that those are the places where they belong, to interact and share something in common among the people in those groups.

Some people join certain groups for getting some personal gains, or business exchange and benefits. But then they will complain that they are not free to be who they are, and are being ‘pressured’ or ‘forced’ to do things the way that the groups believe how things should be done. As by joining certain groups, there are some standards and qualities, or rules and regulations in the groups that the members have to comply to and be recognized as being part of them, or else they will be criticized, or condemned, or expelled. You’ll have to be like them or behave like them, and you are not free to be yourself anymore. You and your life are being observed by others all the time, and are bound to play by the rules of the games or activities once you joined any groups.

Some people don’t like and don’t agree with the way we are, as they can’t understand why we want to keep very low profile, that we are not eager to promote our yoga retreats, and they would try to give us many advices about how we should run our yoga retreats and how to live our lives, even though we never interested to ask anyone for any advice. We let them be free to express their minds to give their opinions. But then when they realize that we are happy with the way as we are and have no interest to follow any of their advices, they would feel offended and disrespected. In yoga practice, we refrain ourselves from this type of egoistic action and reaction with attachment and expectation influenced by worldly thinking, concepts and ideas.

I have no greed to get any ‘helps’ or ‘benefits’ from any ‘personal’ or ‘groups’ to ‘enhance’ or ‘improve’ our social life, or life condition, or income. If I need to do something or to attain something, I depend solely on my own effort to get things done. Or else, I don’t. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t get what I wanted. I don’t let other people to determine or control my life and my freedom about how I should live life and how I should feel and express myself. I also don’t need any encouragement, acknowledgement, support, or companionship from some other people or friends to motivate me to do something that I want to do.

No doubt that the existence of everything and everyone is inter-dependent on many others. But, everyone has to work independently towards liberation. When serious Sadhaka advance in their practice, they will renounce the world and go into seclusion for at least five or six years cutting off all kinds of communications with family and friends. Nowadays, many people who identify themselves as ‘yoga practitioners’ or ‘yogis’, who say that they love yoga and like doing a particular style of yoga asana practice, they are not really interested in dispassion and renunciation. And that is their freedom of what they want to do with their life existence.

I believe in the one same nature in everything, which is the truth of impermanence and selflessness. I see the same nature in everything, despite all the different qualities of name and form that exist in everyone, that generate separateness, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements. From separateness, there arise craving and aversion, conflicts, discrimination, fear, anger, hatred and jealousy in us. Though I do things in my own way, I don’t feel myself as an individual being separated from any other beings even though I don’t join any groups or attach onto certain identifications to be who I am. I don’t need to obtain any recognition or support from any social groups to be somebody.

What I do and don’t do is just actions and inactions, it’s not who I am. Whatever I experienced in the past and am experiencing now, it’s not who I am. Whatever qualities I had or didn’t have in the past, and whatever qualities I have or don’t have in the present, it’s not who I am.

I have no expectation towards life, or towards myself and other people, or in my relationships with anyone. Neither will I be disappointed with myself or other people, as I don’t expect anything. By having expectation won’t change the reality that I don’t like into something that I prefer, and I am not interested at all to change other people to be the way that I think they should be.

I live in the present moment. I don’t have much desires, almost none. I am contented as I am. I allow the universe to bring me whatever and wherever. I have no fear and worry towards ‘what’s next’ or ‘what if’. I let the universe to take care of everything. I just need to do my best, perform all my duties and responsibilities. I do my best to help people around me within my ability, like my family and friends and people who come to learn about yoga, but I can’t help anyone if people don’t help themselves. If people don’t help themselves, I’ll let them be. It’s their freedom of what they want to do with themselves and their lives.

I am not determined by the result or the fruit of actions. There’s no success nor failure, no praise nor condemn, that can motivate or demotivate me to perform actions, or not. I don’t need any acknowledgment, recognition, approval, appreciation, gratefulness and thankfulness from anyone to motivate me to perform actions, to feel happy and meaningful, or not.

And so, it’s really not easy to deal with or to live with a person like me. As I can be very ‘stubborn’ or ‘hard’ in my own way. Or some might say this is self-centred. I let people think what they want to think, and say what they want to say, and I am still what I am. I never try to please anyone and I don’t need anyone to please me. It’s not that I don’t care for others. But I don’t try to interfere with others’ freedom to be what and how they are. I allow people to be happy or unhappy, and to take full responsibility for themselves. I have no intention to make anyone unhappy or to hurt anyone deliberately. I wish everyone peace and happiness. I wish everyone be free from unhappiness and suffering. But I can’t and don’t make people become peaceful and happy. People are peaceful and happy is because they are free from ignorance and they allow themselves to be peaceful and happy. I let everyone to be what they are. I can’t control or dictate their thinking and feelings, what they like and dislike, what they want and don’t want. If they want to be ignorant or unhappy, and attach to qualities of name and form to be who they are, I’ll let them be.

I am happy as I am. This is why I am always cheerful and lighthearted even if there’s some challenging situations arise in my life, as I am not disturbed or determined by my pleasant and unpleasant life experiences, and undetermined by other people’s judgments, opinions, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements. If my mind is ever being disturbed by certain names and forms, I could let it go very fast.

I take full responsibility for the consequences of my decisions and actions. There are no regrets. If the consequences of my decisions or actions are unpleasant, I take them as they are. Most of the time, good and right decisions and actions are not necessarily bringing pleasant consequences. Life experiences can be very unpleasant and difficult, but it doesn’t mean that we did something wrong or bad.

Yoga and meditation and Buddhism practice is practical in every moment in life while we experience happiness and unhappiness, pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life and in relationships with anyone (including the relationship with ourselves, our body and mind). The practice is in the present moment now, being aware of the reality as it is and accepting the reality as it is, without generate attachment or identification, without craving or aversion towards the qualities of name and form that our mind perceives through the senses. There’s no such thing as “I did a lot of yoga and meditation practice in the past”, or “I do lots of yoga or meditation”, or “I am going to practice yoga and meditation in the future”.

I share what I am with the guests who come for our yoga retreats. I don’t teach yoga to other people according to what we learned from the yoga teachers training course curriculum or the teaching manual, or from reading yoga books, or from hearing from somebody else about what is yoga and how they teach yoga.

Whatever I am and am not, whatever I do and don’t do, it’s not who I am. It’s all nothing but impermanent changes of qualities of names and forms.

May all be free, be peaceful.

Om shanti.

For more stories about our relationship, you can read on this link Love Came Slowly

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My life stories – Part 9

My life Stories – Part 9

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

I drove more than 2000 Km on a road trip in the last three weeks. I was taking a break from running yoga retreats and to know more about Malaysia. I also wanted to concentrate on my own yoga practice and share yoga with some old friends.

My husband wanted to participate in a 3 days Vipassana silent meditation retreat in the newly opened vipassana centre at Penang Hill in Penang Island. It was the centre’s first course only for old students. It’s like a trial course to ensure the centre is ready to run longer courses.

We left Langkawi a few days earlier to visit a few historical towns in Malaysia before going into Penang.

We picked up our car from the car ferry port in Kuala Kedah and took the scenic old road (K1) driving at around 60 Km an hour towards Sungai Petani. It was really a nice drive as the road was in good condition, and the scenery was beautiful and calmed over looking the green paddy fields, with hills and trees along the way.

We had a quick stop at Pantai Merdeka. There’s not much to say about the place, except the nice sea breeze. There’s no beach for swimming. We also went to Bujang Valley or Lembah Bujang in Malay to visit the historical site of Malaysia where the archaeologists and researchers found historical traces of Hinduism and Buddhism artifacts dated more than 2000 years old. It was an eye opener for me to know about the history background of Malaysia.

We stayed in Sungai Petani for two nights in a new budget boutique hotel called T+ Hotel located opposite the Pantai Medical Hospital near the Sungai Petani exit from the North South Highway. It was a very nice and reasonable priced hotel. There was big enough space in the room for me to do some yoga asana practice.

We left Sungai Petani and arrived in Penang two days before the meditation retreat. We found a guesthouse called Red Inn Heritage in Love Lane off Lebuh Chulia. It was a very nice backpackers place with very friendly and helpful staff. They gave us a small room with outside shared toilet, but it doesn’t matter as long as I could continue my yoga asana practice in the room – a space about 3 x 6 feet.

We got up at 4.00 am. My husband made use of that coolest time of the day to do some writing in the common sitting area of the guesthouse. He was writing for a collection of short stories to be published in Malaysia soon. Meanwhile I did my personal yoga asana and pranayama practice in our room for about two and a half hours.

Later when the gentle morning sunlight came, we went for a walk around the streets of George Town. It’s the best time to walk outdoor in the early hours to enjoy the cooler temperature in Malaysia. We enjoyed Penang very much walking along the main streets and side streets in the old heritage site of George Town, and tasting the local street food and fresh fruit juice. The nutmeg juice, passion fruit juice and amra juice were fantastic.

After the morning walk and breakfast, we drove around the island via Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi heading towards Balik Pulau and came back through Bayan Lepas. It was a nice drive. We also visited an old Nutmeg confectionery on the road, where my husband tasted the homemade nutmeg juice. His lips went numb for awhile after drinking the juice. It was a harmless mild reaction towards nutmeg. Nutmeg juice is believed to be good for digestion and wind relieving.

We came back to the guesthouse and took a nice shower and continued to walk along the streets exploring George Town. We enjoy walking. We walked a lot everywhere we go – in the city or the country side. It is a very good gentle exercise for everyone of any age.

In the evening, my husband started to complained about pain in one of his ankles. This was probably because of walking too much over these two days. It depends on our body conditions. Sometimes too much exercise within a short period of time isn’t necessarily good for the body. Everything has to be balanced. If we feel muscle tightness or soreness, or easily get tired after a short and gentle exercise, then it’s the body is telling us we need to do more regular physical exercise to improve overall fitness. It might be a sign of Calcium deficiency as well.

Because of the discomfortable pain in his ankle, my husband wanted to see a doctor before attending the silent meditation retreat. I asked the man at the fruit juice stall for recommendation of a good Chinese Medicine Therapist in Penang. He recommended us a Chinese “Tit Da” who has a small consultation room inside a food court in Lebuh Kimberly.

A very kind couple sitting next to us overheard our conversation. They offered to send us to the place with their car. We took their offer as my husband felt so much pain in his ankle on every step he took. The couple was very helpful by leading us to the Chinese doctor and introduced us. It seemed like he was quite well-known for the locals in Penang. The price for consultation and massage for the local people who suffer muscular-tendon injuries is also very reasonable.

While the doctor was rubbing some medicine oil onto my husband’s leg and massaging his foot, he looked at my feet and said to me, “Your life is very hard. You had to work and support your family ever since you were very young.”

I smiled and replied, “Yes, I know. But it doesn’t matter as long as I am happy.”

He said, “It is very lucky that you can let go everything easily, or else it would be very suffering for you.”

I smiled.

He then looked at my feet again, and said, “Your parents don’t love you.”

I laughed and replied, “My parents love me very much.”

He said, “Nope. Your parents don’t love you or care for you, but they only concern about the money you bring back home to them.”

I kept quiet and smiled, as I didn’t need to argue with him whether my parents love me or not, or whether how much my parents love me to determine how much I will love them in return. What he told me didn’t make me unhappy or upset. I am not influenced by what other people say. I am also not determined by how much other people love me, or how other people treat me, or what is the response from other people towards my love and care for them, for me to be kind to them. But, it gave me a reflection about there are many people easily being disturbed and manipulated by what other people say.

There are people who are easily being disturbed or influenced by what other people say, especially words coming from a fortune teller, or religious person, or spiritual person, or respected person, or good friend. How many people’s life or relationships were damaged because the fortune teller told them something that made them feel bad, angry, unhappy, have fear and worry, and have doubts towards the people whom they loved even though nothing is happening?

If a fortune teller told a woman about her husband will leave her one day for another woman, this woman will be so unhappy from then on, and doesn’t trust the husband anymore, even though the husband is very loving and doesn’t have any intention or interest to have any love affair with another woman. Eventually, this woman becomes paranoid and will generate lots of tension in the relationship, and cannot trust or love the husband sincerely. she is always worrying that the husband will be with another woman. Eventually if the husband couldn’t take it anymore and breaks down, and gives up this relationship, it’s not because the prediction from the fortune teller is true, but it’s the woman herself being so ignorant that she would rather believes in a fortune teller’s word than believing in herself and her husband who loves her very much and sincerely. It’s a pity. How many relationships were broken because of this cultural practice of fortune telling?

Everyone has the freedom to say what they want to say, but we don’t have to believe in what other people say, or be influenced and determined by what other people say. We don’t need to go to fortune tellers or astrologers, to ‘know’ about the future if we know how to live in the present, be free from craving and aversion, fear and worry. We would do our best in life, and allow life to be what it is, without expecting life to be the way that how we like it to be, or not to be the way that we don’t like it to be.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s true that my life was very hard. He was right about that. That was what I perceived in the past too. A hard life, poor me.

It’s true that if I wasn’t able to let go easily, I would be very unhappy and miserable having such a ‘hard life’.

He was right when he said that my parents were expecting money from me all the time. That was because they had no choice but to depend on me to bring home some money, because my sister and brothers are living in difficult conditions. I am the only one that they could count on for helping out the living expenses of the family. There’s nothing wrong with supporting our parents if we are capable to do so. I had been supporting my parents since I was fifteen years old until now. But, I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to be kind and compassionate towards myself and other beings, as this family is also one of the beings. It doesn’t mean that my parents don’t love me when they expect me to support their living. They loved me and everyone in the family very much.

Meanwhile some people are having children because they believe and expect their children would and should support their living later in life in return. They expect their children to carry out the duty of a child towards parents, to look after and take care of them when they are old. While the children are being told that it is an obligation to support their parents and family in return. Those who think they are obliged to support their parents and family, but they are not willingly to do so, or they are not capable to do so, will be very unhappy, under pressure and exhausted. Some might feel guilty or blame themselves for being unable to give or support their parents. While some people want to feel good about themselves by supporting their family, as it makes them feel proud about themselves for being able to give, for being a ‘good’ child, or ‘good’ human being. They give is not for the sake of giving, but to gain some sorts of satisfaction about themselves in return. There’s nothing wrong with all these conventional thinking and beliefs, but yoga practice is to free the mind from these conditional thinking and beliefs.

No one is obliged to support their family, as what traditional family would believe so. But people would willingly to support their family, especially their old parents, unconditionally, out of love, not out of obligation, if they are capable to do so. There is no stress or ill-feelings in this act of kindness. People shouldn’t feel bad about themselves if they are not able to give.

All the hardships were in the past. I let go of hardships. I don’t hold onto hardships.

Although I still need to support my father and my brother who has to take care of my father 24 hours a day and he cannot work at the same time, but it really doesn’t matter as long as I am still able to give. I am grateful that somebody who is dear to my father whom my father feels comfortable with, is taking good care of him. I won’t feel bad or unhappy if one day I am not able to give anymore, I will let them go.

I don’t need to continue to feed the past unhappy memories that doesn’t exist anymore, or let them influence how I should think and feel, to behave, to act or react in the present moment now. These past memories can’t determine the future either. I freed myself from being the slave of past happenings or memories. But by sharing my past stories might bring some light to someone who is going through hardship or is unhappy in life just like what I had went through.

There’s no secret and it’s not difficult to be free. Just keep practicing letting go. Forgive and let go.

In the past when I was deluded by ignorance, I felt and thought that my parents didn’t love me or care for me. But that couldn’t determine that my parents were bad parents or had treated me badly because of what I felt and thought. It was all my own delusion and personal projection about them being unloving and unfair to me. I was really miserable, angry and full of hatred because of my own projection resulted in wrong understanding. I had shouted at my parents ruthlessly hurting their feelings many times, but they never angry with me for my heart-breaking behavior and accepted me as I was, and they allowed me to express how I felt and thought. Even if they had treated me badly which they didn’t, it really doesn’t matter. I can still love them and care for them out of compassion.

After I understood about life and realized love and peace in myself, I stopped seeing there’s any problems or unhappiness in my life. I only feel gratefulness and contentment for the unconditional love and formless support that my parents and the universe had been giving me even though at certain times, I felt and thought that they didn’t love me or care for me in the past out of my own projection.

Sometimes our parents caught up in some difficult moments in life to support our living until they can’t pay much attention to their children, and they are physically and mentally exhausted by working very hard to provide the family with a better life condition or just to make enough for a living, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t love their children. I can truly understand it now, but not in the past though. That’s why I was very unhappy and angry. In the past, even though my father earned very little salary every month, he still afforded to bring us to the seaside for picnic on every weekend or brought us to the cinema for a movie, to spend his free time with his family. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t go out for entertainment at all, except with us, with his family. It was only after the financial crisis in our family started, it’s no longer affordable for us to have such outing anymore. There were times during the difficult moments, we didn’t have food or money for the next meal.

When life is hard and there is no food on the table to feed their children, how could anyone think about some other things, not to say to provide some leisure enjoyments to their children? It doesn’t mean that the parents don’t love their children. When they can provide the basic necessities for living out of love, they will also want to give the best education and living environment to their children to have a better life and brighter future. But, sometimes in the process of striving to give as much as they can give to their children, they can’t manage to take care of everything at one time. They only have one head, two arms, two legs and one body. While working hard for living they cannot be with their family all the time.

Some unhappy and angry children who hate themselves or hate their life and their parents, they might blame their parents for given birth to them while they were not financially stable enough to feed their children and couldn’t afford to bring them up in a good environment. But, take a look at so many financially stable families with children, are they all happy or in peace and harmony? It’s not necessarily that being financially stable is a guarantee that the children will be happy and well loved. Without a high income also doesn’t determine that the children in that family will be unhappy and unloved. Love is not measured by money. It’s ourselves, individually how we are able to cope with different living environments and conditions.

It’s not necessarily the fault of the parents when the children continue to be angry and unhappy about life as they grow into adulthood.

Maybe in some cases of an unhappy family are because of irresponsible parents who neglect or abuse their children deliberately, but the grown up children should learn to take responsibility for themselves and their life no matter how much hardship they had been through in their childhood. There are people who came from broken family or had had some very bad childhood experiences with their parents, they can be very successful and happy in life now. It really depends on ourselves whether we want to be disturbed and determined by our parents ignorance and be miserable all the time, or we can forgive and let go, and move on our life, and be free.

Whether the parents had succeeded or failed in giving what the society thinks and believes is appropriate growing up condition to their children, as their children we should be thankful and grateful for all their sacrifices and hardships that they had went through. Sometimes our parents had done their best, but still life could be very hard on them. They might also feel depressed, disappointed and frustrated with life, and when they come home from work, if the children complain, shout, cry and demand for this and that, or misbehave, it can be very tough for the parents as well.

Some children understood the sacrifices and hardships that their parents had went through, and be grateful and appreciate what life had brought to them. They strive to do well and be happy in life to repay their parents with love and understanding, and provide a happy environment for their parents. There are also children who couldn’t understand their parents sacrifices and hardships, and be angry and hating their parents for neglecting them, or didn’t support them, or didn’t give them what they want, or put too much pressure on them to do well in life while they were growing up. And they continue to be unhappy, angry and dissatisfied in life after growing up and after having their own family, and they blame their parents to be the reason why they are unhappy in life.

It’s rare to have parents who can have a flexible or short hour job to support a family and give maximum attention to their children at the same time. My mother was a full time house wife who took care of us whole time before our family financial crisis. Then she had no choice but to go out to do some business to help out the living expenses during the financial crisis. She worked wasn’t because she was greedy or being ambitious, or wanted to be a successful business woman, and neglected us to chase after her own dream.

Even if she was chasing after her own dream after having a family, there’s nothing wrong with that. A woman, whether single or married, with or without children, should be able to have her dreams come true and has her own time doing something that she likes to do, even if she has certain duty and responsibility towards her family. Everyone will be busy at some stage in life and we might not be able to do everything at one time. Tolerance, adjustment, understanding and support should come from the children towards their parents as well, and it doesn’t has to be merely coming from the parents towards their children.

It’s not easy to be parents, especially when they try to do their best to be good parents. Some children complain about their parents didn’t support them enough. Some complain what their parents give them is not what they want. Some complain about the parents didn’t care for them or didn’t pay enough attention to them. Some complain about the parents pay too much attention on them and make them feel pressured. Some complain about the parents didn’t love them while some complain the parents love them too much. One expectation clashes with another expectation. Parents have expectations towards the children while children have expectations towards the parents. This is all the play of ignorance and egoism.

Nobody can give me stress or put pressure on me, as nobody can influence me with their expectation or projection onto me. I don’t have to bother about other people’s expectation on me, as I didn’t even have expectation for myself. As this me is just an impermanent name and form. It’s neither something good nor bad. It’s just what it is.

I don’t need to behave as what others think I should behave.

For example, in this world of names and forms. The world thinks that I should behave like a “woman” or a “42 years old woman”. Or I should behave like a “yogi” or a “yoga teacher”. Or I should behave like a “Chinese”, a “wife”, a “daughter”, a “citizen of a country”, a “Buddhist”, a “sister”, a “friend”, a “human being”, a “good person”. Or I should behave as what I think I should behave because I project myself as this and that. Or I should behave like what other people think I should behave because other people project me as this and that. In the end of life, who cares how others think and judge about “me”? I don’t mind.

A mad person and a liberated being, they both might behave the same, they both don’t mind how the world thinks or judges about them, but one is without awareness or self control, and is restless, but the other one is with awareness and self-control, and is peaceful.

I was, and I am grateful for what life had brought to me in the past, and what life gives me in the present moment. Even if the experiences was not, and is not always pleasant or easy.

I am not affected, nor influenced, nor determined by other people’s thinking and behaviors, or how others treat me. Not even my parents, or my partner in life can determined me for how I should behave or feel, to act or react. “I” am not even responsible for “my” life existence, how can anybody else be responsible for my life? This life belongs to all the elements and energy, influenced by the impurities in my mind, my thoughts, my actions and my speech. But they don’t belong to “I”. “I” don’t own this life. One day this life will come to an end. It’s not in the control of “I” about how long this body and mind will continue to be functioning and existing. Anytime the heart will stop beating, the lungs will stop breathing, and the body will decompose.

Just like I don’t own happiness. And certainly I do not create happiness. Peace is always there whether I am aware of it, or not. “I” or the ego can be miserable sometimes even though peace never come or go, never increase or decrease. “I” or the ego is always too busy with the impurities in the mind, being busy with reactions towards all the perceptions of name and form through the senses.

Nothing is more important than being happy and grateful towards ourselves, and to love ourselves as we are. Whether we think there’s nobody loves and cares for us, or there is really nobody to show love and care for us, or we are being treated badly or unfairly by others, as long as we know how to love ourselves, unselfishly, unconditionally, compassionately, everything will go into their respective places. Loving ourselves is the initial manifestation of compassion. And compassion is the key to ultimate freedom from suffering.

I stopped looking for love and attention from the world or from anybody. I don’t need to look for love and attention from others for me to feel loved. Loneliness doesn’t exist in me, wherever I am, alone or being with somebody. Some people still feel lonely even though they have family and many friends being with them. Because loneliness isn’t coming from being alone. It is a feeling of emptiness or void that is nothing to do with whether there is some other people being with us, or not. Many people don’t like or have fear towards loneliness or emptiness. If we want to be free from loneliness, we need to know the Truth of who we really are, and realize non-separateness or oneness. Loneliness doesn’t exist because ‘I’ don’t really exist. The mind perceives loneliness as the mind thinks it’s separated from what it perceives. Physically and mentally there is a sense of separateness, and is limited by time, space and causation. But beyond the body and the mind, and perception of names and forms, there is no separateness.

I am grateful and appreciate all the love existing in the world and in all beings.

Everyone has the freedom to apply judgment onto anything and anyone, but we don’t need to be determined by other people’s judgment, not even judgment coming from our own mind towards ourselves.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s needless to be jealous or admire somebody else who have a better life conditions than us. There are many others who have worst life conditions than us, like those who live in war zones, who live in anger and hatred, fear and worry, or those who suffer hunger, thirst and diseases.

What is there to be complained about and to generate hatred and disharmony among people, when life existence is depending on the universe to provide all beings with the basic necessities and supports for life existence, especially when we have a good quality of living environment? What is good life and bad life, if there is no element of fire, air, water, earth and space?

What is pride and arrogance, when death is approaching nearer and nearer since the first moment of birth?

It’s all ignorance. In the process to strive for peace and humanity, we are generating more hatred and killings in the world. In the process to strive for more happiness and enjoyments, we are damaging the existing happiness and enjoyments. In the process to strive for better health conditions, we are damaging the existing good health condition.

Good condition, good health, money, power or intellect cannot guarantee us peace of mind. Peace is freedom from ignorance, egoism, selfishness, attachment, craving, aversion, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, discontentment, disappointment, pride, arrogance, fear and worry.

In our personal yoga practice, there’s no need to be jealous or admire some others who have attained higher spiritual understanding or achievement than us. We just need to keep practicing letting go of the egoism and attachment, without any expectation towards the fruit of our practice.

Poverty, difficult moments, obstacles, failures, and not getting any love, support and attention cannot stopped us from being peaceful and happy.

But, ignorance, egoism, attachment, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, discontentment and expectation, will pull us away from peace and happiness.

Once we are free from ignorance, once we let go of egoism, attachment, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, discontentment and expectation, there is nothing that can make us suffer or happy, or give us suffering or happiness. Old age, pain, weakness, stiffness, sickness or death of this mortal physical body cannot give us suffering or make us suffer. Youthfulness, pleasant sensations, strength, flexibility, good health or longevity of this mortal physical body cannot give us happiness or make us happy.

Our true nature is always peaceful as it is, unconditioned by any qualities of names and forms.

When we have gone beyond dualities of good and bad qualities, there is no hard or easy, good or bad, happiness or unhappiness, success or failure, auspiciousness or inauspiciousness, praise or condemn, action or inaction.

When suffering disappears, there is no need to look for happiness.

Be forgiving. Be generous. Be compassionate. Not attach to any names and forms. If there is attachment, we learn to let go. We will know what is true happiness that is unconditional, that isn’t coming from any physical, or mental, or worldly achievements, conditions or objects. It is from within unconditionally.

Life will always be kind to us when we are able to let go of all the dissatisfaction and greed, let go of expectation towards life, ourselves and others.

There is no fear, no worry. Without fear and worry is happiness. It isn’t about being able to do what we want to do, go where we want to go, getting what we like and want, or not getting anything that we don’t like and don’t want.

Take good care of our own thoughts, actions and speech, and everything will be taken care of naturally. For example, I can decide I want to be happy no matter how is the condition of life and this physical body. That is the freedom coming from my will power, undetermined by the impermanent conditions of name and form. Or, I can decide that I want to control my speech, be silent for certain hours or days, or only utter kind words whenever I speak. If my mind wants to express violence through my physical body and speech organ, I can decide that I don’t move the body or don’t speak. This is the practice of self-control. We are the master of our own mind and not being the slave of the impurities in the mind. Be aware of the mind but not involve or associate with the mind. This is yoga. This is meditation.

Whether it is good and happy experiences or bad and unhappy experiences, all experiences are part of the purification process. I am grateful and thankful, and appreciate all kinds of experiences in life.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

While my husband was participating in the silent meditation retreat, I drove the car on my own towards Kuala Lumpur. I stayed 4 nights in a budget hotel called De Nice Inn in OUG square at Old Klang Road. It’s an okay hotel with helpful staff, but they don’t have non-smoking rooms. Anyway, I let the room air out for one whole day and the smell of cigarettes was gone. The room was small, but I managed to squeeze in my usual yoga asana practice while staying here.

Besides doing my own practice in the hotel room, I had arranged to meet up with some old students and friends in their home to practice yoga asana with me during my few days in Kuala Lumpur, to encourage them to develop self-practice at home. Their lives are very busy with many responsibilities of a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a charity club member, a community member, a full time mother, driver and tuition teacher to their children, as well as the maid for the house doing all the cleaning, washing, laundry, cooking and shopping.

After four nights in Kuala Lumpur, I drove back to Penang to meet up with my husband and continued our journey back to Kuala Lumpur as my husband wanted to attend a monthly reading session in Bangsar runs by Sharon Bakar.

We stayed for two nights in Taiping at a reasonable priced new hotel called Taiping Perdana. The room was big and the staff were very efficient and nice. We walked into the town and tasted some local hawker’s food. We also went to the Lake Garden and enjoyed a splash in a river nearby called the Burmese Pool. Taiping is a very peaceful town.

From Taiping to Kuala Lumpur, we took the old road (K5) as well, but it wasn’t a nice road with lots of potholes. We stopped by at Kuala Selangor for dinner and decided to join the fire-flies watching boat tour. We almost turned back halfway as the road to the fire-flies watching jetty was very dark and narrow, and the signs were not very clear. There were many people waiting to go on the boats, so we decided not to do the trip this time as we might arrive in Kuala Lumpur too late for my friend to meet us in their home. The traffic from Kuala Selangor to Subang was congested. We found out the next day from newspaper that the congestion was because Klang was hit by a flood that day.

On this second trip to Kuala Lumpur, we stayed with my friend and her family in their home in Subang USJ. It was a very beautiful home stay experience. It was a very lovely harmonious home. They both are very loving and cheerful couple. So are their children – open-minded and cheerful. We received warm welcome from the entire family and had a few days of great sharing. My husband had a wonderful time being with the kids and chatting with my friend’s husband. The elder daughter who is only nine years old, but already played piano for four years. She was practicing and played a very nice piece of music on our first night there. Both the children speak excellent English and communicate very well with my husband. They were very self-discipline on taking care of themselves for their homework and studies. No wonder they always attained very good results in school.

I did a yoga asana practice session with my friend. The children also tried to imitate what we were doing for fun.

After 17 days of travelling, we finally headed back to Langkawi. It was a long journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Kedah. We took the North South Highway (E1) this time. As usual we made a stop-over at Penang for one night and the next day, we continued driving towards Kuala Kedah to send the car to the car ferry-port before 1.00 pm. And we made it for the 1.30 pm passenger ferry from the ferry-port next to the car ferry-port.

Nice to be back to our little simple home in Langkawi.

We will be busy with retreats again in the next few weeks.

Om shanti.

PS:/ Anyway, the ‘Tit Da’ Chinese doctor mentioned that my husband loves and cares for his wife very much. That’s very true. I truly appreciate my husband’s love and care for me, without intention, without expectation, without attachment, without craving and clinging. Love and peace to all of you.

Response to “Why Malays cannot do yoga?”

One day this search word “Why Malays cannot do yoga?” came to my blog. I cannot give an answer to this question “Why Malays cannot do yoga?”, you’ll have to find out from the one who imposed this idea, because it is not us or the teachings of yoga that saying anything about this, or don’t want any Malays to be practicing yoga, but I would like to share my own opinion with whoever interested in this issue… Because our yoga centre (maybe it’s the only one) is being legally bound by the conditions of forbidding us from receiving or accepting any Muslims of any origins for all the yoga activities in our yoga centre…

* * * * * * * * * * *

Everyone and anyone also can do yoga, practice yoga, realize yoga, teach yoga, share yoga…

We don’t even need any internationally “recognized” or “approved” bodies, organizations, schools, qualifications or certifications to qualify or to certify or to allow us to do yoga, practice yoga, realize yoga, teach yoga, share yoga…

Even when we heard something about who and who should not or cannot practice yoga, it won’t stop and cannot stop anybody or any beings from doing or practicing or realizing or sharing yoga…

Even Malays or Muslims can practice yoga in Malaysia or in anywhere openly…

There is a lot of Malays yoga practitioners or yoga teachers or yoga instructors in Malaysia doing yoga, teaching yoga, practicing yoga, sharing yoga, and realizing yoga, everywhere in Malaysia including Langkawi… Peace and light to all these yoga practitioners who are sincere in yoga practice and realize the bliss of yoga…

Our yoga centre in Langkawi is being legally bound by the conditions or terms or rules and regulations in our business license stating that “This yoga centre is not allowed to receive or accept any Muslims of any origins, or else the business license will be revoked” – That’s all.

We never say, nor think, nor believe, nor propagate that “Muslims cannot practice yoga”.

If I’m not wrong, all Malays in Malaysia are born to be Muslims – There’s no freedom of choice or opportunity to choose their own believes or religion… Please correct me if that is incorrect…

In Malaysia, Muslims or Malays can practice yoga, there is no law binding that they cannot practice yoga, nor there is any legal punishment will be enforced on them if they practice yoga. Muslim and Malays are free to practice yoga, but there was an “advice” from the Malaysian Islamic religion department or the head of the mosque about the yoga practice or the yoga teachings might be contradicting with their religion’s teachings or believes or practice…

I’m not a Muslim, so I cannot say much or comment what are the teachings of Islam. What I know about yoga and its practice, is to promote peace, harmony, compassion, wisdom, loving kindness, tolerance, accommodation, adjustment, adaptation, respect, humility, morality, truthfulness, honesty, chastity, purity, calmness, self-introspection, self-observation, self-control, selflessness, egolessness, and evolve towards purest consciousness, to attain absolute freedom or liberation from suffering, to attain eternal unconditional unlimited peace…

Just like the teachings of Buddhism is similar to the teachings of yoga, but maybe the ways of practice or approaches are not exactly the same, but both are heading to the same source, same direction… They are not any contradicting with each other but actually complimenting each other, in my own opinion…

Buddhists won’t be angry or object any Buddhists to practice yoga or any other believes or religion… Yogis won’t be angry or object any yogis to practice Buddhism or any other believes or religion…

If Muslims come to our yoga centre and practice yoga, they won’t get any troubles or punishments, but we might lose the business license to be legally conducting yoga classes or teaching yoga on Langkawi island… That’s all. We still want to teach or share yoga to many other people from around the world who are not under this “ridiculous” restriction, and so, we respect this terms of “For non-Muslim only” on all our yoga classes, workshops and retreats… That doesn’t mean that we think or believe or propagate that “Muslims or Malays cannot practice yoga”…

And maybe one day, we will leave Langkawi, or not teaching yoga here anymore… We’ll follow wherever the universe want us to be…

There are other people teaching yoga on the island that are not bound by this legal condition, either they do not have a business license or their licenses are not restricted to this condition… Those who “cannot” come to our yoga centre can go to these yoga teachers on the island to practice yoga… Be happy.

Real yoga practice is in the heart, in our life, in our every moment of awareness and existence, wherever we go, wherever we are, whatever we do and don’t do… Yoga practice and the teachings is not limited in some yoga classes conducting by a yoga teacher or yoga centre or yoga school…

Anyway, teaching yoga or sharing yoga is nothing to do with a business license… We don’t need a “business license” to be able to share yoga with anyone in the world… But, due to the sensitive issue about yoga in Malaysia especially on this island where more than 90% of the population are Muslims, we decided to apply for a business license to legalize our activities on sharing or teaching yoga with others on this island… It is only the yoga activities in our yoga centre is being bound by legal terms… We are not restricted to share yoga only with certain people and not sharing yoga to certain people… Our Gurus never mentioned that we can only teach yoga to certain people and not to certain people… The teachings of yoga cannot be restricted by any so called “legal law”… The teachings of yoga and the yoga practice is for everybody and anyone…

Yoga is in everyone whether we know about it or not, whether we like it or not…

Whoever is interested in search for the Truth and want to attain liberation, want to be free from ignorance and suffering, want to attain peace, everyone can learn yoga, or practice yoga, or do yoga, or realize yoga, it doesn’t matter what are the nationality, sex, race, religion, believes, language spoken, personality, characteristic, conditions and abilities, duty, responsibility, behavior, level of consciousness, level of ignorance, and etc…

All can practice yoga and attain yoga…

Love and peace is yoga… Every beings are entitled with yoga in them since the beginning of existence… Even the most evil being also have love and peace within, also is entitled with yoga…

There are many others meditation centres in Malaysia are not allowed to receive Muslims too. There are many religious or philosophical books that are not Islamic are not allowed to be read or sold to Muslims. There is a stamp on the book stated “For non-Muslim only”… Please don’t be angry with these yoga centres or meditation centres for putting up a sign stating “For non-Muslims only”, because it is not their fault or intention or will to reject or offend or discriminate anyone…

At least for the other people who are non-Muslims in Malaysia, they still have the freedom to read or buy any books that they want in Malaysia (except those books that are banned in Malaysia and you won’t see them for sale on the book shelves in the book shops)… They can have the freedom to have any religions or believes, or not having any religions or believes… They are free to practice yoga and meditation without being condemn or criticize or object by anybody or any religion followers…

Sometimes in a family or in the society, our parents, or relatives, or friends, or neighbours, or communities, also will try to interfere, or to control, or to advice us about this and that… But, the choice is in us…

Nobody can give us peace and happiness or take away the peace and happiness in us… Peace and happiness is in us all the time, nameless and formless… It is our nature.

Nobody can give us freedom or take away our freedom… Freedom is in us, nameless and formless… It is our nature.

May all be free from ignorance…

Om shanti.

My life stories – Part 8

My life stories – Part 8 
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Usually when people come together, people expect to have a social interactive conversation by either telling stories about themselves, or asking questions about other people, and talking about this and that, exchanging information and opinions, and getting to know one another. It’s part of the social ethics.

Some people enjoy being sarcastic or hypocrite. Some have the habits of story telling, boasting, moaning, lying, flirting, gossiping, criticizing, teasing and mocking. Some don’t really mean what they say. While some others enjoy playing psychological mind games. Some people prefer not to be straightforward or direct, thinking that it’s rude or impolite to be straightforward and direct, but then, things might become confusing and cause misunderstanding. While some others prefer to be straightforward and direct, it doesn’t matter if other people would feel offended or intimidated, but then, they are able to get things straight and clear. Some people take social conversation seriously, or even too seriously, while most of the time, we can’t take seriously of what people say, as people might not mean what they say. That’s the freedom of everyone for what people want to say, how they say it and why they say it.

Some people expect other people to show interest in listening to their stories, and they are also interested in knowing or listening to other people’s stories. It is part of the characteristic of the impure mind that keeps looking for stimulation, inputs and outputs, to get rid of boredom or knowledge deficiency coming from the ego. While some people would feel awkward or unease when other people aren’t interested to get involved in a social conversation with them, or if other people don’t response to the conversation as how they expect it to be. Those who are proud and arrogant will feel offended by other people who don’t response the way that they think it should be, thinking that other people are being rude. Meanwhile those who are low self-esteem will think and feel bad about themselves, thinking that maybe other people might be somehow being offended by them, or other people don’t like them.

All these thinking and behavior seems to be normal for the worldly minded people. If people don’t think and behave in such way, it would be seen as abnormal or inappropriate. But, yoga practice is indeed to breakaway from all these conditioned thinking and behavior.

Many people like to ask about our past, whether to learn something from other people’s experience or just want to have a conversation going on, breaking the silence. Most people would feel very uneasy if there is a long silence without any talking. For those who are truly interested to know about our stories of the past, and if they have the patience, they can read my blog about my life stories after the retreat finished. If they aren’t really interested, then I don’t exert time and energy in talking about the past as a social conversation. During the retreat, people are supposed to retreat from worldly social conversations and activities, but to observe certain degrees of silence of thoughts, actions and speech. But for many people, they expect to be socializing with other people when they join a yoga retreat. People expect to be talking and interacting most of the time. They thought that is what yoga is about. They thought that is what sharing is about. Being in silence without talking and interaction seems weird or wrong for some people.

Some people, including many of the yoga enthusiasts, would think that sharing yoga means getting involve in a yoga community, interact with each other and do things together. Real sharing is nothing to do with social interactions, or mingling in a particular community. Real sharing is there naturally, without any intention to be sharing anything, when one’s mind is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment and identification, realizing unconditional love and peace, be free from impurities of desires, craving, clinging, longing, anger, hatred, ill-will, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, fear, worry, pride and arrogance.

We observe silence of thoughts, actions and speech when we immerse into yoga and meditation practice. We observe limitation of talking and social activities to conserve energy as well as to quiet the mind. We observe truthfulness and straightforwardness in everyday life. If we talk, may the conversation brings peace and harmony into oneself and others. If the conversation will bring unrest and disharmony into oneself and others, then it’s better don’t talk. And yoga retreat is a time and space for people to be retreating or moving away from the common worldly behavior and activities of the mind over a period of time, to allow the mind to have a few moments of quietness by reducing inputs and outputs of the mind, to turn the outgoing mind inward to perform self-inquiry and focus on our own yoga and meditation practice.

People also like to know about our own personal practice. But, yoga and meditation practice is a very personal self-evolution journey. It has nothing to do with how other people perform their own practice, as everyone has different temperament and characteristic. What type of yoga and meditation practice, and the amount and frequency of the practice that are designed for some people might not be suitable for some others. Everyone must find their own path and own practice. It also has nothing to do with the worldly thinking and belief, or the good and bad condition and situation of the world. But most important, it’s to have determination, perseverance and discipline, until the restless mind is subdued, and the ego and ignorance is completely annihilated.

By asking questions and getting answers from other people might let us know what we want to know, but it doesn’t take away the ignorance and egoism and impurities from our mind. Hearing about other people’s life experiences and their personal yoga practice might can inspire us to practice yoga, but it doesn’t give us liberation from ignorance and egoism, unless we perform our own practice and attain self-realization. That’s why in meditation practice, it’s about observing silence and be aware of the reality as it is, to perform self-inquiry or contemplation upon the truth. It is not expecting an answer from someone else, as even though someone is telling us the truth of things, we will always have doubt about the truthfulness of the answers given by others for all our questions, as all these knowledge are not realized by ourselves, but it’s other people’s realization. We will still need to attain our own self-realization of the truth or the answers to all our doubts, to be free from doubts and ignorance. Knowing and accumulating a lot of knowledge and information about this and that, is completely different from knowing the truth of things, as knowing many things doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the truth of things.

Coming in contact with different types of people coming from different cultural and educational backgrounds, who possess different qualities of names and forms with different thinking and beliefs, where some are gentle and some are aggressive, while some are being gentle in certain things and aggressive in some other things, but none of these qualities, or specific personality, characteristic, thinking and belief can guarantee that one is free from ignorance and egoism, that one is peaceful as one is, if there is attachment and identification with certain qualities of names and forms to be who ‘I’ am. There’s so much tension exist in those who have strong attachment and identification with certain qualities of names and forms coming from disagreement and resentment towards other qualities that one doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, or doesn’t want to possess. Disregard what type of qualities that they possess and don’t possess, there are people who couldn’t allow other people to be different, as they couldn’t understand why other people who are different from them would behave in certain ways that they don’t agree with, that are unacceptable for them based on their own thinking and belief about how people should behave. And there’s nothing wrong when people couldn’t accept other people’s thinking and behavior that are different from their own thinking and behavior.

Yoga practice is here for those who are willingly to let go of attachment and identification towards all kinds of conditional worldly thinking and beliefs.

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

 

“How come we moved to Langkawi and teach yoga here?”

This was the most common question that everyone asked us. I am thankful for all the questions asked, as it inspired me to write about my life stories of From where I came from and how I came here.

We didn’t choose Langkawi.

It was either Langkawi had chosen us, or the universe had brought us here.

We had no intention at all to be living in Langkawi one day, and teach yoga here.

We went to Koh Lipe with our friends from Austria for holidays in January 2009.

The easiest way to get to Koh Lipe from Kuala Lumpur was to take the flight from KL to Langkawi and then take the speed boat from Langkawi to Koh Lipe. We didn’t plan to stay in Langkawi at all. We didn’t even think of to take a look at Langkawi. We had no interest to know about it either.

We wanted to stay in Koh Lipe for seventeen nights and spend our entire holidays there. So we booked our return flight tickets to go back to KL seventeen days later. Marc, my husband, went to Bangkok before and he could get a 30 days tourist visa stamp. We thought we would get a one month tourist visa upon arrival in Thailand.

As soon as we stepped out the Langkawi Airport, we took a taxi to bring us to the Langkawi-Koh Lipe speed boat jetty at Telaga Habour. One and a half hours later we arrived in Koh Lipe, a very beautiful island with clear water and white sandy beach.

When we got to the immigration booth in Koh Lipe to get back our passports, the immigration officer gave my Malaysian’s passport a thirty days visa stamp and gave my husband’s Irish passport a fourteen days visa stamp. We didn’t know that they had made a new regulation that tourists coming into Thailand by land and by sea could only get a fourteen days visa for other foreigners, but Malaysians could still get a thirty days visa.

We asked the immigration officer on how we could extend his visa for another 3 days. They told us that the only way was to come back to Malaysia and go back to Thailand again. And this would cost us a lot more than if we just stayed in Langkawi for the last three days of our holiday before our flight back to KL. So we decided to shorten our holidays in Koh Lipe and stayed three days in Langkawi instead, unplanned.

After spending 2 weeks in the beautiful clear water island of Koh Lipe doing yoga asana practice on the beach everyday, snorkeling and collecting beautiful sea shells, and enjoying delicious Thai food on the island, we left Koh Lipe and came to Langkawi island. We didn’t really know where to head to.

We met some other tourists in Koh Lipe who told us that Pantai Cenang was the most popular place in Langkawi and there were some budget guesthouses to choose from. We took a shared van taxi with some other tourists and they were heading to Pantai Cenang as well. Each of us paid ten Ringgit for the taxi.

Half an hour later, we arrived at AB Motel. But they had no room for us. We walked along the Pantai Cenang street carrying our backpack and looked at several places to stay, but they were either fully booked or too expensive for us.

At last, we found Amzar Motel for fifty Ringgit a night. It’s a simple accommodation, so we didn’t expect too much. But we had some noisy neighbours quarreling in the middle of the night. We didn’t sleep very well.

On the next day, we spent our day walking along the street of Pantai Cenang and strolled on the beach. The beach was nice, but fulled of jet-skies, motorbikes, cars and four wheeled drives on the beach, and lots of tourists. The sea water was not as clear as in Koh Lipe. But the sea was very calm. We went for a swim in the sea. We didn’t find the place interesting at all.

On the second day, we took a taxi to the town of Kuah. The taxi fare wasn’t cheap. It was twenty Ringgit one way at that time in 2009. The taxi brought us to a duty free shop. We weren’t really interested in shopping. So we walked around the shop lots and we came to Trimula. There was a vegetarian restaurant and we went to take a look at their menu, but it wasn’t appealing to us as the dishes were pre-cooked and already sitting there for some time. They had other dishes that can be cooked fresh when you place order, but most of them were deep fried mock meat stuffs that we didn’t really want to eat.

The restaurant owner was a very friendly man. He had a tours company and car rental business next to the restaurant. We asked him what were the interesting things to do and places to visit in Langkawi. He said that the best way to get around Langkawi was to rent a car. He was right about that. Because of the expensive taxi fare in Langkawi and there was no public transport like buses, it was be a lot cheaper to rent a car to explore the entire island.

He gave us some discount for a small car at eighty Ringgit a day. It was a Suzuki Swift. So, we explored the island with a guided map. We drove towards the highway. It was a very good highway on the island from Kuah town straight to the airport. We turned into a side road that led us to the centre of the island. We drove up to Gunung Raya with a nearly empty fuel tank. We forgot to fill up the petrol tank before we went. It was very nice to be up there because of the cooler temperature and the nice view of the island from the top. Anyway, we were lucky to come back down to a petrol station to feed the car.

We continued our journey and came to a waterfall – the Durian Perangin waterfall near the Air Hangat Village Hot Spring. We hiked up the path that led us to the waterfall. The path was surrounded by rain forests. The air was so fresh and cooling. It was a small waterfall, but powerful. It had a big enough pool for dipping in. The energy there was really great. It had been a long time since the last time we visited a waterfall and rain forest. We liked this waterfall very much, especially my husband. He’s a man of nature. He finds peace in nature. This waterfall gave us a different impression about Langkawi.

After that, we continued to explore the island and came to the hot spring. there was nothing much to see or do. It wasn’t renovated at that time and lack of maintenance. But now it is renovated and looks brand new with some hot spring Jacuzzi rooms. From there we drove by some villages with rain forests and rubber plantations along the way. This experience of driving on roads with trees and mountains that we can see, but not high rise concrete buildings, gave us a great impression about Langkawi Island. We stopped by at the Black Sand Beach and the Craft Complex. That was very nice too.

That evening we went back to Pantai Cenang with complete different point of view about Langkawi. Langkawi wasn’t just Pantai Cenang as what we thought that was all it was. It has some other beautiful features – nature, waterfalls, rain forests, mountains, mangroves, rivers, nice beaches and slow paced lifestyle. It’s economy depends mostly on tourism. It is a touristic place, but it’s also very good for living.

The following day, we went back to the big city of Kuala Lumpur. Both my husband and I had a strong feeling about Langkawi, and that led us to booked another return flight tickets to Langkawi because just happened that AirAsia had great promotional air fare at that time. So, we took three days off from teaching yoga classes at home, and came back to Langkawi again in less than two months. On this trip, it was mainly to come here to see if there would be a suitable house for us to live and to teach yoga.

We had been thinking of moving away from Kuala Lumpur where we can be closer to nature. I didn’t mind living in Kuala Lumpur. I was contented living there for many years. But, if there was a choice I would prefer to live in a village near by nature just like when I was growing up. A year ago before we moved to Langkawi, I painted a painting with a wooden house near the beach with mountains and coconut trees around it. I always dreamt of living in a house by the sea. And the house that I painted looked almost the same as the house that we found in Langkawi later. But we didn’t think of Langkawi before.

So we were in Langkawi again, looking for a house to rent that wasn’t too close to the busy street of Pantai Cenang, but yet close enough for people to walk from Pantai Cenang. We wanted to look for a house that is surrounded by nature and not too close to other houses or the noisy and dusty road. We also looked for a house that has a big space that we can have four to six people in a yoga class, and the rent had to be within our budget. It wasn’t easy for us to find a suitable house.

We told each other that if we could find a suitable house within that three days, we would move here. It wasn’t so easy to find a house to rent in Pantai Cenang area and the rent was much higher than other areas. It was a popular location for foreigners to rent a house for long stay.

Many of the houses in good condition were already occupied by foreigners. There were some half-built abandoned houses available, but they needed a lot of renovation before anyone can move in.

We found a budget place to stay for forty five Ringgit a night at the Shirin Guest House. We didn’t expect much from this room. The lady owner was a very nice Japanese lady named Hiroko. She married to an Iranian man and had been living in Langkawi for many years. She also had been to India studying Yoga for two years. She was a very strong woman in the heart.

We thought that the best way to look for a house, was to go around this area by feet. We walked around the villages behind the Pantai Cenang street. It was a hot and sunny day, but we were determined. We asked a few villagers about vacant houses and told them that we were looking for a house to rent. One of the villagers told us that we should buy a house instead of renting it. First of all, we don’t have money. Then, even if we have some money, we couldn’t afford to buy anything here as the price of properties here is ridiculously high. Lastly, Majority of the lands and houses here are Malay Reserved properties. Only Malays can own the properties here. Though I am a Malaysian citizen, I couldn’t buy or own any properties here on the island.

We looked and looked, and asked many people along the way. Some people showed us some houses that were available. Some of them were near to the noisy main road. Some were very close to neighbouring houses. Some were too far to walk from Pantai Cenang. Some ticked all the other boxes, but they didn’t have a big hall for yoga classes and the rentals were beyond our budget. We talked to a couple in a tackles shop and gave them our contact numbers.

We were exhausted from walking a few hours under the hot sun in the last two days, and decided to relax on the beach on the last evening. We changed into our swimming attires and was about going to the beach, and the phone rang. A Malay man asked me over the phone if we were still interested to look for a house to rent, that he knew there’s a house was available for rent. We wanted to give ourselves the last chance.

So we meet up with this man and his friends in front of our guesthouse, and they brought us to see the house in their car. We came to a road with a sign said ‘Wrong Place’. We saw that sign earlier when we walked pass it, and thought it was strange. And we came to a little Malay wooden house at the end of the road. It was a very beautiful wooden house near the paddy fields and there’s a swamp in front of it. It’s away from the main road and other houses and close to Pantai Cenang. It ticked many boxes. But we still needed to see the inside of the house and we didn’t know how much was the rental.

This house aged around one hundred and fifty years old. The owner bought it from somewhere else in Langkawi. They took down the woods piece by piece with numbers written on them, and then brought it here and resembled the woods back into a house. It had a small balcony to sit out looking over the garden and the paddy fields.

They opened the door for us to get in. The living room was big enough to accommodate six people. The sunlight and the breeze rushed in when they opened the windows on three sides of the living room. There was a small kitchen that could only fit one person at a time and a small bathroom that we couldn’t stretch out our arms. There was a medium size bedroom and another small room which we could use as an office and store room. It was almost perfect, except that the kitchen was really small as my husband loves cooking and we planned to do all the cooking for the yoga retreats besides teaching daily yoga classes. The rental was within our budget too. We both agreed that it was what we were looking for. So, immediately we paid them one month deposit to reserve the house. We told them that we could only move in two months later because we needed to settle all our classes in Kuala Lumpur. They said they didn’t mind. In the end we could only come three months later because we need more time to stop all our classes. And they didn’t charge us extra money to hold the house for us.

We came back to Kuala Lumpur the next day, and were very excited about our spontaneous decision to move to Langkawi. We informed all our students about the move, and had a farewell dinner at home to say goodbye to our friends and students.

Two weeks before we moved, my husband went for a ten days Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Malaysia. He would come back on the day before we moved. Meanwhile I was busy with packing our things into boxes while he was gone, so that we would be ready to go when he came back.

Because my husband loves cycling, we thought that he could do some cycling when we moved to Langkawi living in a village without heavy traffic and air pollution. So we went to PJ Old Town and bought him a new bicycle on our last day in Kuala Lumpur. Somehow one of the tyres punctured when he cycled back to our condominium in Taman Sri Manja. And so, we had to take off the wheel from the bicycle and brought it back to the shop to repair it. We were really busy that day. But we enjoyed every moment of it.

On the morning of the 10th of July, we loaded all our furnitures and things onto a six wheeled lorry, and we drove our little Kelisa to Langkawi. We spent one night in Ipoh. On the next day, we arrived at Kuala Kedah and sent our car to the car ferry, and we took the passenger ferry to Langkawi. We stayed a night in a motel in Kuah town near the Jetty Points where the passenger ferries come in.

On the next morning, we took a taxi to the car ferry port at Dermaga Tanjung Lembung to collect our car and drove to our new home in Pantai Cenang. It was monsoon season and it had been raining heavily all day all the way from Ipoh to Langkawi. But it stopped raining at the time we arrived at our new home and our lorry arrived not long after us. We managed to move all our furnitures and things into the house just before it started to rain again. It’s like a miracle.

After that, we found out that this wooden house had been empty for six months when we saw it the first time. One of our neighbours told us that there had been many different people looking at the house before, and though they were interested to rent the house, the owner didn’t want to rent to them. And then, when the owner wanted to rent the house to a very rich couple, they didn’t take it as they said the kitchen was too small for them. And so, the house was sitting empty for six months until we saw it. It meant it had been empty for nine months before we moved in.

The house was there waiting for us to come, all that time.

And now, we had rented another simple but spacious house about two minutes walk from our yoga studio with bigger kitchen and dining hall to prepare the meals for our yoga retreats. A few months later, we had moved out from the wooden house and started to live in this house. The wooden house would be used as the yoga studio for doing the yoga classes.

This was the story of why we live in Langkawi and teach yoga here.

We didn’t choose Langkawi, but Langkawi chose us.

We didn’t have much money. We spent a lot of money for moving house and for getting the business license. We didn’t see teaching yoga as a business. We didn’t really need a business license to teach yoga to anyone. But when we went to the city hall to ask about it, the head officer told us that we had to apply for a business license. We wanted to do it the proper way legally to avoid any problems with the local community, as it was quite a sensitive issue here about running yoga classes in a Muslims predominant village area.

The business license took more than a year for it to come through. Before we applied for the business license we needed to apply for a temporary permit for the house. That took about three months to come through. When we applied for the business license, the business license department people weren’t very sure about what was going on with the yoga fatwa thing. They didn’t know whether they could give us the permission to teach yoga here. After holding our application for more than six months, they decided to send our application to the mosque to get the advice of the head of the mosque whether we could teach yoga here. And after another few more months, the mosques finally gave us the permission to teach yoga in Langkawi, but with a special condition that we cannot accept any Muslims of any origins for attending any of our yoga classes and retreats activities. Or else our business license would be terminated, and we wouldn’t be allowed to teach yoga here on Langkawi anymore. We still want to teach yoga to so many other people who come here to learn and practice yoga. And so, we respected the rules and regulations of the business license.

For understanding more about the terms and conditions of our business license that forbids us from teaching yoga to Muslims, please click on this link to read about it. And for understanding more about yoga is unconditional and unlimited by any names and forms, please click on this link to read about it…

We had to spent lots of money for moving house and applying for the business license. We were living on my husband’s savings for many months before the classes and retreats started to take off one year later. Though I knew we couldn’t live on my husband’s savings for too long, I didn’t worry. I told my husband that if things became too difficult for us to make a living in Langkawi, I would go back to Kuala Lumpur to work to support our living. I believed the universe would take care of everything. And it did.

We will continue to teach yoga here, unless the universe wants us to be at somewhere else.

Om shanti.

This video below was taken when we were in Koh Lipe

My life stories – Part 7

My life stories – Part 7
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams came true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Last updated in August 2015

Though my mother had passed away many years ago, my father still misses her very much. He feels guilty for my mother had passed away in the hospital, alone, without any of us being with her at that moment. He regrets deeply and blames himself for not being there for my mother when she took her last breath. He strongly believes that my mother might have something to say to him before she died. But now and forever, he will never know what my mother wanted to say to him before she died.

My mother was paralyzed during the last two years of her life. She needed special care and attention from my father and my sister to help her in everything from feeding herself to going to the toilet, and bringing her to the hospital and traditional Chinese acupuncture centre for check-up and receiving treatment for a few times every week.

Not long after my mother’s death, my father was paralyzed too and has to lie in bed most of the time. The only wish he has, is waiting for my mother to appear in his dream. Every day and night he just wants to sleep and sleep, hoping that my mother will show up in his dream and talk to him. But he didn’t get to see her. Every time when I visit him, he cries while telling me that my mother didn’t show up in his dream. In great disappointment, he asked me why he couldn’t see my mother in his dream. Another thing that he keeps blaming himself is for being impatient and shouted at my mother when she needed his care and support.

It wasn’t easy to take care of a paralyzed person twenty four hours a day. Everyone became impatient, exhausted and frustrated. My mother had no choice but to depend on my father and my sister to be her hands and legs for everything. It was very hard for a person like my mother who used to be very independent and physically strong, but suddenly she lost all her mobility and freedom to do even the simplest thing. It wasn’t easy for the person who needed help and the person who helped.

I can never complain about how my father, my sister and her two daughters for being impatient and shouted at my mother frequently when they lost their patience being exhausted from taking care of a paralyzed person. Everyone was tired and frustrated. I can understand that. The person who was sick was suffering. The people who cared for the sick person were suffering too.

I felt compassion for my mother for being paralyzed because nobody would want to be in such condition, being helpless and losing one’s strength and mobility. I sympathized with my father, my sister and her daughters, for being trapped in a situation which nobody would like to be in. Nobody would enjoy spending many hours looking after a paralyzed person who needed so much personal care and attention. I commiserated with my two elder brothers who blamed themselves and feeling bad and guilty for not being able to help out financially. I felt sorry for myself for not being able to be there for my mother all the time because I had to be at somewhere else making a living to provide financial support for the entire family.

And now, my father is also having the same difficult condition as my mother had.

Because of the deep sadness from missing my mother, my father refuses to get better. He doesn’t want to go for physiotherapy or receive any kind of treatment. He gave up living from the moment he regained consciousness and realized he had lost his mobility. It’s more than eight years now he has been paralyzed and he is getting weaker and weaker each day.

My eldest brother is taking care of my father. He will bring my father to sit up on the wheelchair for eating and showering, but my father can’t stay in a sitting position for too long. In the beginning, my brother brought my father out of the house with his car, to eat out and to get some fresh air and looking around at the outside world. But then my father became very weak and had to lie down most of the time because his body would be in pain for sitting too long. Since then, he seldom gets out from the house for many years, except when my brother sends him for routine check-ups in the hospital once every three months.

My father was feeling unwell in the morning the day that he got paralyzed. My sister brought him to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told my sister that my father had to stay back in the hospital until late afternoon for observation and run some tests. My sister went back home to look after her daughters and she would go back to the hospital to pick him up later in the afternoon. During the check-up, a nurse asked him to sit up on the bed to perform some physical movements. Somehow he lost his balance and fell onto the floor from the bed with his head hit the floor first. He lost consciousness and they sent him to the Emergency Unit. He went into a coma. And ridiculously, they informed my sister only after they had sent my father to the ICU. They told her that my father went into a coma and was sent to the ICU. There was nothing they could do, they said. Immediately my sister went back to the hospital while informing everyone in the family. My father regained consciousness many hours later, but half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor explained that there were three blood clots in his head that caused the paralysis. We didn’t know whether the blood clots were caused by the fall, or they had already existed before the fall. We couldn’t undo anything, even if it was somebody’s negligence and responsibility for what had happened to him.

The staff at the hospital didn’t mention anything about why he had been sent to the ICU. It was my father who told us later about what had happened to him on that day.

My sister thought of getting some compensation money by suing the hospital and the nurse. I told my sister that it was needless to sue anyone. It would do more harm to my father than to benefit him, as it would be a very long and stressful process for my father to go through if this went into a court case. I also believed that the nurse didn’t have intention for my father to fall down from the bed. Nobody intentionally wanted this to happen. The nurse might have felt very bad for this incident. Moreover, there was no other witness that could support whatever my father told us about what had happened to him that day, and my father’s memories were a bit confused after he suffered from paralysis. Even if we successfully sued the hospital or the nurse and got some compensation many years later, it still wouldn’t change the fact that my father was paralyzed and wouldn’t get any better. We should forgive and let go. One day this nurse might become a great nurse or a great person learning from this incident. We don’t want to ruin somebody’s life with the possibility for becoming a great person. Someone’s life was already ruined and couldn’t be undone. Everyone makes some mistakes at some points in life. We don’t want the nurse to be unhappy and have no peace for the rest of his life. Even if it was really the nurse’s negligence or responsibility for my father’s unfortunate condition, we would like him to know that we had pardoned him. It was an accident.

I have been supporting my family financially since I was a teenager. My second elder brother has been suffering from asthma since he was a baby. He couldn’t do much physical activities and didn’t have a permanent job to support his own living. In the past, he would need to borrow money from me from time to time to have food on the table. My sister is in great debt with many different banks, relatives and friends, and needs to take care of her own family with two daughters and three grandchildren from two separate broken families. My eldest brother can’t work because he has been taking care of my father twenty four hours a day. Therefore I have to support my father and my eldest brother financially.

Though my eldest brother loves his wife very much, they have to live separately for all these years because in the past she has to live with her family to take care of her father who was very ill for some time before he died, and now, she has to take care of her old mother too. They can only see each other once or twice a month as they are now living more than 120 km away from one another. It’s a sad and unfortunate life story of our family. But my brother never complain. He takes good care of my father out of love. I am glad that my father has such wonderful son to take care of him, and I’m always thankful to my brother for sacrificing so much for our family.

I need to be able to take care of myself so that I can look after my family. I never worry or regret. Worrying and regretting won’t change anything. It won’t take away my father’s suffering or make my family’s difficult condition to become better. Instead, I use my entire energy to practice and teach yoga to help myself and others, to be free from ignorance and suffering, and have love and peace in our hearts while living in the world of impermanence and uncertainty. My family also needs help. But nobody can help another if people don’t want to help themselves.

More than seventeen years ago, my parents were living with me before they moved out to live with my sister. After my late brother-in-law passed away in a tragic work accident, my sister had moved to Senawang where she found a job as an administrative clerk near where she lives. Senawang is a small industrial town with plenty greenery about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. She always wanted to live in a house close to the countryside where she could see the mountains and the big blue sky from her house.

Because of her two young daughters were studying in schools near my house in Old Klang Road, she didn’t bring her daughters to live with her. If she brought her daughters with her, she would have to pay someone to take care of the children when she’s at work. Her monthly salary wasn’t much. She couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. She also had to pay back a lot of debts little by little every month. So she left her two daughters with us – my parents and I, to look after them. If she had some money left, she would give a few hundred Ringgit to my parents for her daughters’ daily living expenses.

My sister is very different from me. All I want is a simple, quiet life. She wants to make a lot of money. She wants to have big house, big car and enjoy life. She wanted to invest in property, so she bought a house and a shop lot. She wanted to invest in life insurance, so she bought eight life insurance policies at one time. She wanted to go for holidays staying in nice hotel pampering herself once in a while. And she would use her many different credit cards to pay for everything that she wanted – house instalments, car instalments, insurance premiums, holidays, petrol, grocery shopping, dining, and lots of bills. She didn’t realize that her ambitions were too many and too big, and she ended up accumulating more and more debts. But my sister isn’t a bad person.

She is a very kind and friendly person. She won’t have any bad intentions for anybody. She is a person with great patience and wouldn’t get angry under any circumstances, except when she was too tired from looking after my mother, she lost her patience and shouted at my mother a few times. But I know she would feel very bad afterwards, as she would never want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. She wanted to provide my parents with a better living condition. She wanted to give her daughters the best that she could give. All she wanted was to have a better quality of life. And it’s totally nothing wrong with all her ambitions, but life was so hard on her all the time.

She was a member of the Red Crescent Movement and had helped many people everywhere while she was still in school. She continued to help many people after she finished school. She lost her own handbag many times, when she tried to help people who were injured in car accidents. She is a very good friend to many people. She was very intelligent and had very good results in school exams. She was one of the last batch students who received Malaysian general education in English medium. She reads and writes and speaks good English. She is a bookworm. She used to sing a lot and played a guitar when she was younger. She is a happy and carefree person.

But, all these good and positive qualities don’t guarantee that she wouldn’t be getting into financial problems.

Her elder daughter was a problem child. We couldn’t blame her. She had a very unpleasant toddlerhood before her father passed away when she was four years old. She had been frequently shouted at and canned by her father since she was just a few months old. One time, he slapped her for crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well causing her mouth tilted to one side when she talked. It wasn’t a bad thing for her and her baby sister who was five months old when their father died in the work accident.

Somehow she liked to tell lies and had been stealing money since she was just a little girl. One day, I found out that my one and only fifty Ringgit note had been missing from my purse. I used to count how much money I had every day and knew exactly how many notes and coins in my purse, as I didn’t have much money left for myself after giving most of my money to my family. And I knew for sure that I had one piece of fifty Ringgit note in my purse, but it had disappeared.

I was very upset. I was very sure that it must be her who had taken it, as it wasn’t the first time she took money without asking. I couldn’t control my anger. I was different from my sister. I would get angry and wasn’t a nice person at all. I felt really upset that we had been taking care of her and her little sister, but that was what she repaid us. At that stage of my life, I was very ignorant and unhappy. I was very angry with the difficult financial situation in my family and didn’t have the wisdom and compassion to control my anger and my behaviour. My mind was over-powered by ignorance and unhappiness.

I got really, really angry. I shouted at her madly. I told her that I was going to call the police to send her to jail. She was just a nine year old little girl at that time. I realized later in life that I was too harsh on her. I had to forgive myself as I couldn’t undo what I had done which I shouldn’t.

In the beginning, she kept shaking her head and denied that she had stolen the money.

She was very famous for her stubbornness. One time, her school teacher punished her for something that she did at school. The teacher gave her a stroke of caning on her palm. Other children would have cried in pain, and asked for pardon. But she didn’t retreat her hand, she didn’t cry and didn’t apologize. The teacher became more furious and gave her a few more strokes and hit harder and harder each time. She still wouldn’t retreat her hand and wouldn’t cry. The teacher gave another few more strokes until her palm started to bleed. Then the teacher stopped. She still didn’t cry.

She came home with the injured palm, swollen and bleeding. My parents found out what had happened to her, and went to the school to complain to the school principal. Immediately after that day, the teacher was sent to another school to teach. The entire school knew about this. And she became famous for her stubbornness.

After a few times of questioning with me shouting at her like a mad person, she went out in silence. A few minutes later, she came back with some money in a plastic bag. She already spent some of the fifty Ringgit. She kept the remaining money in the plastic bag and hid it under one of the flower pots down stairs.

I was really disappointed. Immediately I called my sister. I told her that she must came right away to take her daughter back with her to Senawang. I didn’t want her to live with us anymore. I was such cold-hearted, uncompassionate and unforgiving. About one and a half hours later, my sister came. She said she needed some time to arrange her daughter to go to a school in Senawang. I said to her, I could wait for another few days or a few weeks, as long as I didn’t want her daughter to live with us anymore. I didn’t mind that her younger daughter to continue to stay with us and I didn’t mind taking care of her.

My parents were very upset. They loved me very much. They knew that I worked very hard to provide financial support for the family. They didn’t want me to be unhappy. They also loved their grandchildren very much. They couldn’t bear the pain being separated from one of their grandchildren. They sympathized with my sister that she had to look after her daughter on her own while she also needed to work. They sympathized with their granddaughter that she wouldn’t get as much love and attention as she could get from them and also be separated from her young sister, if she would have to live with my sister. And so, my parents made a very hard decision. My father decided to move to Senawang to live with my sister to take care of their elder granddaughter. And my mother would live with me and take care of their younger granddaughter. My parents had to live separately since then. They travelled back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Senawang. And all these were because of me and my bad temper. And yet, my parents never said anything bad about me.

Every weekend, my mother would drive to Senawang to see my father and their elder granddaughter. Sometimes my father would come back to see my mother and their younger granddaughter, and me, of course. This was going on for some time. Two years later, it was time for my younger niece to enter primary school. They decided that the easiest way for everybody, was to send her to the school in Senawang which her sister went to. Therefore, my mother also moved to Senawang to reunite with my father and both their granddaughters for good. And the two granddaughters were no longer be separated from each other and were living together with their mother under the same house.

My sister moved away from Kuala Lumpur hoping for a brighter and happier future, but it seemed like life didn’t want to be easy on her. Now, she doesn’t have the house or the shop lot anymore because the bank had auctioned off both her house and shop lot to pay back the huge amount of debt she owed to the bank.

While living with my sister, my parents continued to help her to clean up the house, and did the cooking, gardening, washing the laundry for everyone and sending the children to school. And my sister thought that she didn’t need to give any money to my parents for looking after her children, but instead, she thought my parents should contribute some money, or pay her back by doing the house works and to serve her and her children, because my parents were living at her house.

I was totally speechless.

This didn’t make sense at all. While her children were living with us and my parents had to take care of them, she would give some money to my parents for taking care of her children and for feeding them. But when my parents were doing the same thing for her, but living in her house, and had to do more house work, and yet, my parents had to contribute money for being the servants of the house? If somebody hired a helper to do some house work, the helper would get to live in the house, would be fed and paid accordingly. It’s like telling the servant, “Since you are living and eating in my house, so you should give me some money and do all the house work in exchange.”

My parents never saw it as working for my sister when they took care of the children and did all the house work for her. My parents love their daughter and granddaughters. Out of love, my parents wanted to take care of them and do everything for them. For my parents, they do everything for us out of love, family love. Family never calculate how much we give and don’t expect anything in return. But somehow their daughter took this love for granted. But yet, they didn’t mind at all. I totally understood my parents’ hearts, what were they thinking and feeling at that time.

I felt that it was unfair to my parents to do so much for my sister, but was being treated like free servants, and had to pay for their stay in my sister house for food and accommodation. But, I respect their freedom to do what they wanted to do. They were happy giving all that they could give to my sister. My parents sympathized my sister had lost her husband and had to bring up two young children all by herself. It was very difficult for my sister to work and take care of the children at the same time. I could understand that.

My parents had the freedom on how they wanted to use the money that I gave them every month. I couldn’t and shouldn’t dictate how they should spend their pocket money although it was coming from me. Once I gave away the money, the money didn’t belong to me anymore, and it’s up to them how they wanted to use it. But I convinced my parents that they didn’t need to tell my sister how much money that I gave them every month because I knew my sister would borrowed all the money that they had, and spent the money recklessly. They listened to me. They received the money from me every month without telling my sister how much I gave them, but they continued to help out my sister’s living expenses silently with their pocket money, without letting her knew about it. How great was that family love!

Sometimes my sister didn’t have enough money to get the daily needs. So my parents were using their own pocket money to do the grocery shopping without telling my sister that the petty cash for grocery shopping had finished, because they didn’t want my sister to get stressed out. My parents treat us as a family – we all share the same flesh and blood, and family never being calculative. This is how much our parents love us. They give everything and never ask anything in return.

Though my parents showed lots of love and care to their granddaughters, they didn’t respect my parents at all. They shouted at my parents, especially to my mother after she was paralyzed. They ignored my mother when she asked them for something. When my sister didn’t have enough money to give to her daughters for their schooling expenses and daily pocket money, my parents would give their own pocket money to their granddaughters. But they didn’t know how to be grateful and thankful. Again, my parents didn’t mind at all. Sometimes they would cry in front of me and told me about what happened to them in my sister’s home. That was how I learned about what my parents had been going through while living with my sister.

There was a time, my parents had almost finished using their pocket money and my sister hadn’t been giving them money to buy rice and vegetables for some time. Every day she went out to work in the early morning and came home after midnight because she had another part time job as a guest relation officer in a karaoke night club in Seremban. She didn’t realize my parents hadn’t been cooking for a few days. My parents didn’t want to trouble me and didn’t tell me that they were running out of money. They didn’t want to ask money from sister as well because they knew my sister already had no money to pay bills and all her instalments for months. They didn’t tell my sister that there was no more rice in the house. They gave the scarce money that they had to their granddaughters to allow them to buy food at school, and my parents had been eating stale bread for many days, until I gave them their next pocket money. I had been giving them enough money for their living, but they spent all their money for their grandchildren and my sister. And they had to eat stale bread for many days instead. I felt so sad, so sad for my parents. And angry as well.

Many years had passed by, but my sister’s elder daughter didn’t get any better or wiser. She became worse. She couldn’t stop telling lies and stealing. One day she stole her friend’s ATM card and took out lots of money from her friend’s savings account. She bought many dresses, shoes and bags. She came home with all these new things, and told my parents and her mother that she had a rich boyfriend who bought her all these things. Sometimes she also brought some presents back for my sister, my parents and her sister, to show that she loved and cared for the family. She was only fourteen years old at that time. But my parents and my sister didn’t suspect anything.

Until one day, her friend’s mother found out that it was my niece who had been stealing her daughter’s money and came to see my sister and my father, and threatened to call the police. My father panicked. He cried and knelt down and begged to the woman not to call the police. He was afraid that his grandchild would be filed criminal record and wouldn’t have a future anymore. It’s a huge humiliation for a man to kneel down to a woman and beg for spareness. My sister also made a promise to the woman that she would slowly pay her back all the stolen money. It was a huge amount for my sister as she didn’t make enough money for living and she had lots of debts at that time. The woman sympathized with my sister’s situation and was moved by my father’s love for his grandchild, and therefore she agreed that she wouldn’t report to the police.

I believe that my niece wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t right to steal and couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. But I knew that she did it partly was because she was frustrated with the unfortunate and difficult condition of this family. There was always not enough money for food and for living, not to say to have any leisure and material enjoyments like what her friends had. She had been teased by her classmates for not having a father and living in poverty. She also wanted to be nice to the family and to be able to give something back to the family, to help out financially. But she went to the wrong way to get what she wanted.

My niece didn’t learn from this incident. She ended up getting pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl when she was sixteen years old. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant when she hadn’t been menstruating for more than four months. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital to seek doctor’s consultation and found out that she was pregnant. She broke up with the baby girl’s father not long after the baby girl was born, and went out with some other men. And now, my niece has two more young children from a relationship with a young man who didn’t want to accept her elder daughter from the previous relationship. Anyway, their relationship didn’t turn out well. And so, my sister has to look after these two young grandchildren who were very unhappy being caught up in a broken family.

When my niece gave birth to her first baby girl, my sister was very happy to be a grandmother. So as my parents were very happy to be great-grandparents. They loved this great-grandchild so much. This baby girl certainly brought some joys into this family after they had been struggling with financial problems for a very long time. After her delivery, my niece didn’t know how to take care of a baby. Therefore, my sister became the baby’s full time nanny.

When this baby girl came into the family, it brought some reliefs and happiness to everyone, especially for my mother. She felt so happy seeing her great-grandchild. When she was looking at this little baby girl, her sadness from suffering paralysis and being shouted at by her husband, her daughter and the two grandchildren were all gone. My mother would cry when she told me about how she was being treated when I wasn’t there, but she would smile when she talked about her great-grandchild. It was her happiest moments in the last two months of her life.

On the 24th of December, 2006, my sister called me while I was teaching my morning yoga class at home. She told me that our mother had passed away in the hospital. The last time I saw my mother was a few weeks before she died. In that final conversation which I had with my mother in private, I told her that she didn’t need to worry for us anymore, that she should let go. I told her that I love her very much, as well as our entire family also love her very much. I also asked her what she would like to do with her funeral. And she told me that she wanted to be cremated and the funeral should be held in Kuala Lumpur, so that her friends could come to see her for one last time. The last few words that she told me were we should always give without expect anything in return but we must repay others for being kind to us, and always be humble and forgiving.

I told my sister over the phone about what our mother had told me. And we followed exactly what she wanted us to do.

I went to the hospital in Seremban with my brothers and my sister-in-law. I saw my mother’s dead body was lying on a table. She looked so peaceful like she was smiling. I held her hands and gently rubbed her hands, her arms and her face with my fingers. I kissed her cheek and forehead. Goodbye, mother. Thank you.

I didn’t cry. Not until a few months later, I started to cry. For all the love that she gave me and to the family. Her wisdom and compassion. Her patience and forbearance. Her forgiveness and generosity. I realized how much I missed her. But I had to let her go. And she’ll always be with me in my heart.

No matter what had happened in the past, who’s right, who’s wrong, and who’d suffered most, I wish my family love and peace, and be able to forgive and let go. Forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect. Forgive life wasn’t as easy as how we would like it to be. And no matter what, we are family.

Life was never easy for me and my family, but I learned to be grateful, thankful and content. I learned to forgive and let go. I learned to be happy no matter what. And love unconditionally.

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