My life stories – Part 12 (A new beginning)

My life Stories – Part 12
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

After more than 10 years living and running yoga retreats in Langkawi, we left Langkawi for good early this month. And so, here we are, starting a new chapter of life living on another island in Malaysia.

Now that we have left Langkawi, I would like to summarize some of our experiences in Langkawi as part of my life stories.

We are thankful to the nature of Langkawi which is the main reason we had been living there for a decade, even though there were some ‘difficulties’ that we had to deal with for living and running yoga retreats legally in Langkawi, that we didn’t really talk about in the past. We weren’t denying the unpleasant experiences that we encountered in Langkawi. We acknowledged all kinds of difficulty that we had to deal with, and lived with them, but we tried to focus more on promoting the beauty of Langkawi when we were living and running yoga retreats there. Initially, we thought of living in Langkawi for as long as possible, as we love the slow pace of living that is still available in Langkawi, but the time has come for us to let it go and be at somewhere else.

One of the reasons that made me decide to leave Langkawi, is that my dear father and big brother who had went through many difficulties and hardships in life, who were the very few loving kind-hearted and down to earth human beings in my life had passed away respectively over the last two years. My father passed away on the 30th of December, 2017, while my big brother who had been looking after our paralyzed father for many years, passed away on the 30th of June, 2019. They had suffered a lot their entire life even though they took things lightheartedly and smiled through all the hardships. I respect their resilience a lot. My family was my motivation to work hard making a living to support their life. Now that my parents and my big brother were gone, I don’t need to work so hard anymore. This body is not getting any younger as well.

Although I myself had also been through many hardships, I can choose to live life differently from my family. I chose to live a life that has more wise impact. Life doesn’t need to be wasted in deliberately dealing with ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in the world. Yoga practice talks about endurance or forbearance towards difficulties, but it doesn’t mean that we should be wasting life and energy dealing with the ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in the world. We can choose to be in an environment that has more wise impact, if possible. If that’s not possible, it’s okay. We accept the reality as it is, and live with it.

Living in a different environment on another island also has certain ‘unpleasantness’ or ‘difficulties’ that we need to deal with. Life and yoga practice isn’t about expecting perfection and avoiding imperfection, but it’s about no matter where we are, we learn to allow the world to be what it is, not necessarily the way that we would like it to be.

On Langkawi, the blooming development for tourism might be benefiting many of the plumbers, electricians and metal smiths in Langkawi, but that also means that there’s very limited plumber or electrician or metal smith would come to our house to do a little bit of work. Even though more and more new guesthouses and hotels have been building in Langkawi which provide jobs and business for the hardware shop, the construction company, the construction workers, the plumbers, the electricians or the metal smiths, but there are also more and more existing guesthouses and restaurants couldn’t survive due to the reduced tourists flow in the past few years.

It’s really difficult to find someone skillful enough to do something for us in Langkawi. And when we were able to find someone to do things for us, they couldn’t deliver a good quality of workmanship or service. We couldn’t even get a tailor to make a curtain for us. Once a tailor took our order and our cloth for making curtain, and then she went disappear along with our cloth, couldn’t be contacted for many years until now. We heard that some rich expatriates on the island import all their building materials and skillful workers from other countries to build their houses that live up to the European standard.

Once a dishonest air-conditioner installer recommended by a ‘friend’ cheated us by installing a one horse power air-conditioner claiming that it’s a two horse power air-conditioner that we had requested. It’s our own responsibility for trusting our ‘friend’ and his recommendation, and we didn’t know much about air-conditioning. And then the newly installed air-conditioner had problem, we tried to contact him for months also couldn’t get in touch with him. And so, we went to our ‘friend’ who recommended him, then only we found out that he had cheated us and were avoiding us deliberately. And it’s pointless to bring this issue to the police, which I will explain later.

After that this ‘friend’ recommended another air-conditioner mechanic to us, and he came once to fix a problem of the air-conditioner, but after that he was too busy to come to do even just a normal routine chemical service. And finally, we got another company from Kuah to service the air-conditioners, but with higher price than usual as they were reluctant to come to our place in the beginning saying that it’s too far for them to come.

Another very important reason is that my husband would like to live a healthy lifestyle, cooking and eating healthy vegetarian food, swimming and enjoying some outdoor time and space outside the house, he couldn’t do so while we were living in Langkawi. One time he got serious sun burnt (for doing some painting under the shade at the car porch) and needed to be treated in the hospital.

We had moved and lived in three different houses within the last ten and a half year in Langkawi. When we spent some time outside the house, we either suffered from heat-stroke, sun burnt, hornet stung, or poisonous ants and mosquitoes bite. There were countless insects, leeches, rats, poisonous centipedes, snakes, monitor lizards and scorpions coming into the house through gaps and holes of the door, windows and ceiling, or coming in through the drains, where we needed to keep doors closed all the time and putting a brick on top the cover of the drain so that rats, monitor lizards and snakes couldn’t come in from there.

Most of the non-sliding windows in the house were unable to be opened as they were blocked by the mosquito netting, while the entire house was having very low ceiling and non-insulated wall, where constant heat was accumulated in the house throughout the day even when the sliding windows that we replaced some of the non-sliding windows were opened and with the fans switched-on. We reluctantly needed to use the air-conditioner all day and night if we were in the house, or else, we would be suffering from heat-stroke and overly sweating and wouldn’t have a proper rest/sleep. The house was like an oven. It built up heat due to the poor structure. We had a thermometer in the house, and if without the air-conditioner switched-on, the temperature could go up above 35 degrees Celsius, even when the outside temperature was actually a lot lower. And if we were cooking, the temperature went up even higher. The room that was less hot in the house was the yoga hall, as the ceiling there is slightly higher, and we had the sliding windows installed that can be opened. Still, we needed to use the air-conditioner during the yoga sessions in the afternoon, as it would be too hot.

There were rats living on the ceiling and snakes living in the post box, in the gap of the ceiling and under the rubbish bin. In the first wooden house, we had to put rat trap onto the ceiling everyday, and every time when we caught one, we would bring it out in the car and release it into the bushes about a few km away from the house. But, this process never had an end as there were so many rats around our neighbourhood. There were a group of scorpions living outside the back of the wooden house, and hence we didn’t go to that area unless we had to.

There were tiny insects coming into the house if we didn’t have the outside lights turned-on but with the inside lights switched-on at night. I had to ‘get rid of’ so many insects and poisonous centipedes everyday in order to be able to live in the house, and to ensure a clean and safe practice environment for our retreat guests. My work of constantly cleaning the entire place was ceaseless. We had to ask the cooperation from the guests to keep the place as clean as possible to avoid attracting insects, particularly ants or mosquitoes, into the yoga hall. As once the ants found food in the yoga hall, they will return with many others, and also making their nest somewhere in the house, and it would be more difficult to keep them out.

Being bitten by poisonous ants and hornets is no fun at all. We both, especially my husband, had been bitten by ants and hornets numerous times while working in the garden. I have a few scars on my skin were from the ants bite. And we gave up, in the end. We also told the retreat guests not to hang around at the garden in the last two years, as there were too many ants and hornets that give nasty bites, or even allergic reaction that could lead to death in certain people. My husband had been admitted to the hospital a few times due the nasty hornet stung, where his body reacted badly to the hornet stung. This house was also no longer suitable for running the retreats, if our guests would be attacked by ants and hornets.

There were also too many house lizards in the house that generate huge amount of ‘shits’ everyday, where I needed to clean up everyday, and sometimes, a few times a day especially when we had the retreats going on. And then there was constant sand mining activity in this area that generates so much dust around the house.

Though the sea is very close to us, only about 5 minutes drive away from our house/yoga studio, and we loved to be on the beach, while my husband would love to swim in the sea, but we never wanted to get into the sea for two reasons. One is that there are too many jelly fish, some of them are extremely poisonous, already with several death cases in the past due to jelly fish stung. My husband nearly lost his life being stung by jelly fish while swimming in the sea of Pantai Cenang not long after we moved to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur. He had stopped breathing when we arrived in the hospital and the medical people performed CPR on him immediately and gave him injections to be able to breathe again. He was suffering from extreme pain throughout the body for the next few weeks, and wasn’t fully recover until more than one year later. Another reason, is that the sea here is highly contaminated/polluted by the drainage and sewage system in that area (Pantai Cenang). Even the dolphins and turtles that used to come close to the seashore also had stopped coming here many years ago. For those reasons, my husband wouldn’t swim in the sea ever again even though it’s conveniently close by. More than a year ago, he started swimming at the pool in one of the big hotel not too far from our house, but the quality of the pool water wasn’t great, and half a year ago, this hotel had stopped operating. Then my husband found another hotel that allowed him to swim at their pool, again he only went for a few months and then stopped going, as the pool water was in a terrible condition.

We were paying tourist’s price for almost everything due to it’s a touristy island. Langkawi depends solely on tourism and almost everything are imported from the main land of Malaysia, or from the neighbouring countries, or even from countries far away. Most of the imported produce are catering for meeting the demand of tourism, and yet, many things are either non-available, or shortage of supply, or commonly out of stock for many weeks/months, or having higher price tags due to shortage of supply on the island. Food like chickpeas, sesame seeds, certain brand of muesli, certain brand of jams, cheese (though there are very limited choices of cheese/jams/muesli here) and eggs are often out of stock for some time (from a few days to a few months). Once we couldn’t get sesame seeds for two months and muesli was out of stock for half a year, and there’s no Parmesan cheese for the last few months. While the big hotels and the many restaurants that cater for tourists might have the priority to be getting their supplies adequately.

The things that are very cheap in Langkawi are the duty-free goods such as chocolates, sweets, alcohols and cigarettes, which we don’t consume. The imported cars, dining and kitchen wares are duty-free as well, but how many cars, dining and kitchen wares that we actually need? Before GRAB exists in Langkawi, taxis are the only public transport available on the island and the fare is even more expensive than in Kuala Lumpur. As residence of Langkawi, we were paying the same taxi fare as the tourists.

Whenever we needed to see a dentist, we had to travel to Penang or Kuala Lumpur, as the only dentist that we knew in Langkawi was incompetent, where my husband’s teeth and gums were seriously damaged by the dentist after one visit. From then, we would go to Penang or Kuala Lumpur for dental works. We also took the opportunity to do some shopping for things that we couldn’t get in Langkawi during our trips to Penang or Kuala Lumpur.

Other ‘problems’ such as neighbouring cats constantly coming into the garden and the terrace leaving behind dead animals/birds, shit/pee, fur and fleas. Unfortunately, when we asked the cooperation from the retreat guests to not feed or stroke the cats to not encourage them to keep coming to the terrace, some of the cats lover weren’t happy about that. We loved to have cows and buffaloes hanging around the paddy field, but they would break the fence from time to time trying to eat the grass from within the garden. We love animals and certainly we don’t hate animals, but they gave us too much work to deal with, unintentionally.

The entire family members of the house opposite us was well-known for drug intoxication, house breaking-in and stealing. We didn’t know about it until after our house was broken in, as if we had knew before we rented this house, we would look for some other houses. Again, it’s our own responsibility for not investigating more detailed about the surrounding neighbourhood. And of course, in order to rent out their houses successfully, the landlord wouldn’t mention anything about all houses here were being broken into countless times in the past. But anyway, it doesn’t matter which area in Langkawi, most houses had been broken into at least once before.

Langkawi had the highest record of drug addicts in Malaysia. Someone who had been living in this village for many years in the past told us that almost the entire villagers of all ages are all drug addicts. And due to drugs problems, house break-in is so common in Langkawi. While I was filing police report AGAIN for another house broken-in, the police said to me, “We know them. They are our neighbours and relatives. If we have proof and we will catch them. We will bring them to court, and it depends on the judge whether giving them warning and releasing them immediately, or sending them to prison for a few days or few weeks. And after a few days/weeks lock-up in the prison they are all out again, and will continue doing what they love to do. This process will continue to go on.”

Even children in the primary school are already smoking cigarette and maybe some other ‘stuff’ and are involving with many ‘illegal’ activities. We heard story about some drug dealers would give free sample of ‘sweets’ to the children outside the school to get them hook on it, and then these children would buy ‘sweets’ from them and/or become one of their runners.

One of our friend’s house was broken into four times within a month, and one time, the thief ‘carelessly’ left behind his Identity Card. When they brought the Identity Card to the police and told them, “This is the person who broke-into our house and stole our stuff.” The police took the Identity Card from him and said, “Ah! This is my relative. I will give this I.C. back to him. Thank you for returning the I.C.” This is why it’s pointless to go to the police.

In the beginning, after we moved to Langkawi living in the wooden house close to Pantai Cenang, we were so naive that we didn’t think of locking the gate at all. One day when we came back from the outside, the gate was wide opened and there were cigarette butts left on the terrace. Then we knew that Langkawi people are so ‘friendly’ that they would come into your house without invitation if your door are not closed or locked. And so, to avoid ‘uninvited guests’ we started to lock the gate. Not so much to keep people away as they can climb in easily if they want, but to keep cows and buffaloes away as they would damage all the plants in our garden. In less than a year, the wooden house was broken-into when we were away, even with the gate locked. When our friends from Europe came for holiday and stayed at the Airbnb house in the same village, their wallets were stolen when he was in the shower. He even saw the guy running away and he tried to run after him but lost him in the end.

Later we rented another house about 2 minutes walk away from the wooden house, where we used the wooden house only for the yoga sessions and the other house for living and cooking meals for the retreats. We needed to spend a few thousands Ringgit on this house to redo the flooring and the wiring before we could actually live in that house. And the old landlord of this house would walk around our house in the middle of the night with a ‘Parang’ knife, not so much about being a security guard for us and keeping ‘uninvited guests’ away, but it’s to check on us every night whether we had ‘invited guests’ staying with us, and whether we did anything that he didn’t want us to do in his house, or not. As we were told that we were not allowed to have any other ‘guests’ staying with us, that we couldn’t have non-halal food and drink or activity in the house. One night, he actually knocked on our door holding the ‘Parang’ wanted to see if there was anything that shouldn’t be there. Other than that, he and his wife were nice people. We loved to talk to them from time to time. They told us about their life stories in Langkawi, and some history of Langkawi.

Five years later, we needed to find another house for living and running the yoga retreats, due to the existing ‘problems’ with the wooden house. The house on stilts was leaning to one side seriously until we couldn’t close the door anymore, plus the issue with the building permit renewal, as well as our landlord wanted to take back the house that he rented to us for their own stay because their house was going to be demolished to make way for the new highway. They were happy about that because they were getting huge compensation from the authority, which later they used it for building a guesthouse. When I went to renew the building permit for 2014, the authority said that they couldn’t renew that permit anymore because the temporary permit only valid for five years. After five years, we need to make new application for the permanent permit, which requires a lot more money (that we didn’t have) and all kinds of document from the landlord, which the landlord didn’t have. And so, I went to cancel our business license and was getting ready to go through the entire ‘painful’ process of applying for a new temporary building permit and new business license for the new place.

For a few months, we were looking around for a suitable house to live and run yoga retreats, until we found this house beside the paddy field. We had to spend most of our savings to renovate the house and create a garden to make it good enough for living and running yoga retreats. We didn’t make a lot of money from teaching yoga, but we managed to save some money because we lived a very simple non-materialistic and non-sociable life.

Not long after we moved into the new place, some kids climbed over the fence coming into the compound, and when they saw us, they said they just wanted to ‘see’ if they can ‘borrow’ something from us (after they had climbed in without asking permission.) And we told them not to do that again (for climbing over the wall to come into our compound and ‘borrow’ or ‘take’ things as they like.) And then one night, whether it’s related to those kids, or not, our house was being attacked where there were broken glasses in the terrace and garden, resulting from someone throwing light bulbs into the garden and the terrace area. We went to the police station to file a police report for that incident even though knowing that the police won’t do anything about it.

Even when we first arrived in Langkawi, we received a ‘threatening’ email from an expatriate who was a ‘yoga teacher’ and runs a business in Langkawi for more than twenty years, who thinks she is the head of the expatriate community in Langkawi, who wasn’t happy that we came to Langkawi to teach yoga and run retreats, and wanted to ‘lecture’ us about how we should or shouldn’t run our yoga classes and retreats in certain way. We didn’t want to react or response to that, and continued to do what we wanted to do. Later, we heard from some other expatriates about the annoyance that they were getting from her as well.

In less than one year living there, our house was broken-into. And then, followed by two other attempts of breaking-in, where they damaged the mosquito netting trying to come in through the windows, but after knowing that we were at home at that time, they fled. There were blood drops on the floor during the break-in and the police came and took some sample, but we were never being updated about whether they identified and caught anyone, or not. When we asked the police what can we do to protect ourselves if we would be attacked by the thieves, the police told us that we can try to fight back but never to the point of causing serious injury or death to them, as we will be prosecuted for injuring/killing others even for self-defense.

After that, our landlord asked us to keep all the outside lights and some of the inside lights on throughout the night all the time to avoid house break-in, especially when we were not at home, to pretend that someone is at home. Our electric bill was extremely higher than it should be due to the need to use air-conditioners all day and night because of the house was too hot all the time, as well as the need to have many of the lights on throughout the night for just trying to minimize the chances of getting house break-in.

Because our landlord reluctant to fix the broken grill due to the house break-in, they asked us to find someone to fix it. And so we asked someone recommended by a ‘friend’ to come to install a new grill. The guy came and took some deposit from us, and he didn’t come back to us for a long time, and we couldn’t get in touch with him, until we told our ‘friend’ that we will bring this issue to the police, then only our ‘friend’ gave us back the deposit from his own pocket, and he would deal with the guy himself. Then we ‘found’ another metal smith who said he would make the new grill for us, came to our house and took some measurements. And then many weeks later, when we called him as we didn’t hear back from him, he told us that the grill was ready and he would come to install on the next day, and we were waiting for him to come on that day, but he didn’t show up and didn’t call us, and didn’t want to answer our phone calls from then on. This was ridiculous, but it’s because they all have other more ‘important’ big projects to do. We were just some small business that didn’t interest them.

Within the last 5 years, we had tried to call various plumbers, electricians and air-conditioner mechanics to come to do some plumbing, electrical and air-conditioning works for us, none would come, saying that they were too busy with their respective projects with the many hotels and guesthouses. And those (recommended by the landlord) who would come to do a bigger renovation for the house in the beginning to make the house more suitable for living and running the retreats, they delivered a bad quality of workmanship, where the sliding windows, the paint work, the toilets, the doors, the plastering work, the wiring, the car porch and the terrace were of low quality and had lots of defects. And there’s nothing much we can do about it unless we spent more money on it to re-renovate it again, which we couldn’t afford.

In Langkawi, either you might have the money, but you can’t get anyone to do things for you, or, you paid the money and have the people to do things for you, but they are incompetent to deliver good enough quality of workmanship. The guesthouses and restaurants owners whom we knew, were all frustrated about the working quality and attitude of the local people that they could get in Langkawi.

The low quality wooden doors of the house were being affected badly by both the dryness/heat/sunlight and the humidity/rain, where the door repeatedly going through a process of shrinking or expanding causing it couldn’t be closed properly/at all or couldn’t be opened smoothly/at all, and as time goes by, the doors were rotting away. The house was built on refilled rubbles on top of the paddy field, where the flooring and the wall is seriously uneven and cracking through time, and the cracks on the wall and the flooring were widening/deepening in an incredible speed within the past five years. And the owner was being acknowledged about all the problems, but didn’t want to do anything about it. He said, “Oh, that’s normal-lah. Every two years the intense vibrations from the LIMA airshow will shake the house a bit.” There were moisture coming through the ground leaving stains at the lower parts of all the walls in the entire house as well. We had tried to repaint the wall to cover those stains, but very soon, the stains built up over the new paint. It’s pointless. This is due to the bad foundation of the house that they didn’t do right when they first built the house. And that’s common in most of the local houses in Langkawi.

And then, there were many ‘hassles’ that we had to go through yearly for just trying to live a life as well as to be running yoga retreats (legally) in Langkawi.

In order to have a business license and permit to run yoga retreats legally in Langkawi, I had to bear ongoing hassle of ‘threats’ coming from ‘the authority’ and ‘the law of rules and regulations’, where I had to go through the ‘painful’ renewal process repeatedly every year. Not just that I had to pay expensive fees for getting the initial application paper work done (more than 8 thousands Ringgit for the two different houses) and the yearly renewals for the building permit and business license, but I was being ‘threatened’ legally to bear all cost where the building or the house that I rented for living and being legalized/permitted to teach yoga and run yoga retreats need to be demolished, if I want to stop running yoga retreats and cancelling or discontinue renewing the building permit, or if for any reasons, the authority stops renewing the permit.

They said it’s their ‘fault’ and ‘mistake’ in the process of granting me with the building permit under my name, where it should be done under the landlord’s name (which no one told me about that), BUT, even though it’s a mistake from them, it’s still law binding that being the permit and license applier and holder, I am legally obliged to demolish the house/building, and be responsible for all the cost to demolish the house/building if I ever cancelling or discontinued to renew the permit, or if the authority decides to stop renewing the permit, and that it’s my responsibility that I had to negotiate any existing compensation to be paid to the landlord/house owner for demolishing his house or building under that rule and regulation, where the landlord/house owner wittingly rented the house/building to me, acknowledged and allowed me to run yoga retreats in the house or the building, and was aware of this ‘ridiculous’ rule and regulation.

The entire process of applying for the building permit and the business license took more than nine months. And from the very beginning, the authority, the owner and I, we all knew that I was only renting a house and simply just want to apply for a business license to be running yoga retreats legally in Langkawi. And the owner had to sign a paper granting me with the permission to teach yoga and apply for a business license to teach yoga legally in that house. In order to apply for the business license, I needed to apply for a temporary building permit for the house, which had cost me thousands of Ringgit each time. And if without the permission letter from the owner, the authority couldn’t process my application. And so, they knew that I am only renting an existing house, but they only have one application format, which is “Application of requesting permission to build a yoga studio on this land.” I told them, “This isn’t right, because I didn’t build the house, the house was already existing and I am only renting the existing house to live and teach yoga there. I am not asking permission to build a new building of yoga studio on that land.” They said, “We know. But it doesn’t matter. This is the only format that we have in order to grant you a temporary building permit that allows you to apply for the business license. We are here to help you.”

And so, every year, I had to renew the building permit in order to renew the business license. And then when I wanted to renew the temporary building permit for year 2018, the authority asked me to signed a legally binding acknowledgement about I will have to demolish the building and bear all the cost and compensation to any party, if I, or the authority, decide to cancel the building permit. I wasn’t comfortable with that, and told them that I didn’t want to get involved with such ‘trouble’ for just trying to do things legally. I was ready to let go everything and stop teaching yoga in Langkawi at that time. My father had just passed away a few days ago. I was quite emotional. Then they told me, “Hey, don’t worry. It’s just some standard paper work. It won’t affect you because we have the permission letter from the owner. The owner will be responsible for complying to the rules and regulations. Not you. When you stop business or stop living there, you just go. If anything, we deal with the owner. No problem.”

“But then, I am the one who had the name and signature on that legally binding document. It doesn’t matter what you say, I am the one who is legally bound by this.” Then they asked me to contact the owner to explain the situation to him. They also said that they would help me by changing the holder name of the permit to the owner’s name, as it was their mistake in the beginning where they should have use the owner’s name to apply for the temporary building permit, and not using my name. And when the owner came to the office, the owner asked the officer, “What happen if she had to demolish my house as requested by the authority?” The officer said, “Oh! That depends on your rental agreement with her. You can request and negotiate compensation from her.” What?!

Does this hurt your brain as well? And this is the system that everyone who wants to do things legally in Langkawi has to comply to.

That means, either I didn’t want to demolish the house as I was only renting the house, the house doesn’t belong to me, but then I would be prosecuted by the authority for not obeying the rules and regulations, or, I obeyed the rules and regulations from the authority, spent money (that I don’t have) to demolish the house (which is illegal for me to do that), and then be sued by the owner and had to pay compensation (that I don’t have) to him for demolishing his property that he rented to me.

Even though they had created a letter for me and the owner to sign stating that we requested to change the holder name for the temporary building permit, but when I wanted to renew the permit for year 2019, the name hadn’t been changed at all, it was still under my name, but they accepted the legal binding document was being signed by the owner, and not me. Even so, I was really uncomfortable with the whole affair. I just wanted to do things legally, but it’s so difficult and complicated and PAINFUL to do things legally in Langkawi, while there are so many illegal businesses and tourist yogis teaching yoga classes on Langkawi illegally didn’t need to go through all these ridiculous hassles that I had to go through for trying to do things legally.

On top of that, we had to pay higher rental than what the local people are paying as my husband is a European and I am a Malaysian Chinese. Normally the locals would pay only half of what we paid for the similar house.

The three houses that we rented for living/running yoga retreats were rundown and unmaintained by the owners, where we needed to spent quite a lot of money to renovate and maintain the condition of the houses in order for them to be functional and good enough for living as well as to run yoga retreats. When people came for attending the yoga retreats and said, “Oh, what a nice place you have for living and for hosting the yoga retreats.” that is because we had spent most of our savings into making the space suitable for running the yoga retreats and comfortable enough for the people who come to attend the yoga retreats.

Anyway, when I went to cancel the permit before we moved, unsurprisingly, they gave me a letter stating that I am being requested to demolish the building/house. The officer said to me, “Your permit is successfully cancelled. My boss said you need to demolish the building.” while pointing to the respective sentence. But then, he immediately said to me, “You can ignore this sentence. You don’t really need to demolish the house. You are just renting the house. We won’t do anything. Next time if the landlord want to have a permit, he can do so with the existing file.” I told him, “Really? This is a legal binding document that is directing to my name, how can you tell me to ignore this sentence? Why don’t you give me a letter that is without that sentence?” He said, “This is a standard order from the boss. We can’t change that.” There’s nothing more I could say. I can’t change the system. I left and let it be.

The village also has another issue. There is serious rubbish problem. The locals are not keen on keeping the surrounding environment clean and rubbish free. They throw rubbish everywhere as they like. In the beginning we went out to the street around the village to pick up all the rubbish. And then, we realized that not just it didn’t bring awareness to the people, but we were actually encouraging them to throw more rubbish everywhere, as they feel it’s okay for them to throw the rubbish everywhere because there were two ‘stupid’ people living here now will clean up the rubbish for them. And so, we stopped doing that.

We would try our best to keep the front of our house as clean as possible by picking up any rubbish being thrown by random people passing by. But somehow, our next door neighbours weren’t really helpful as they would just throw anything over their fence into the paddy field. The paddy field is no longer being cultivated but had turned into a rubbish dumpsite full of food waste, plastic wraps, bags, containers and bottles as well as unwanted old broken furniture, and etc. We had talked to the neighbours a few times requesting them that maybe they could stop throwing rubbish over the fence like that. But, they still do what they want to do. The paddy field in front of our house used to be so picturesque but it wasn’t anymore. And then from time to time, the other neighbours would burnt some rubbish with all kinds of plastic material that generate toxic fumes.

Another reason is that on the 1st of July 2019, I could have been injured or losing my life on the highway towards Kuala Lumpur for attending my brother’s funeral because of the ‘dishonesty’ and ‘incompetency’ of the car workshop that I had been bringing my car for regular service and repair in the past 10 years. Some how, they installed expired and non-compatible tyres to my car where they were in so bad condition that they could have exploded and caused serious damages to myself and/or others during my long driving journey from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur that day, which I only realized how lucky I was when my second brother saw the serious damages of the tyres and immediately brought the car to a nearby tyre shop near the funeral place to change the tyres immediately. Everyone said that it was incredible that the tyres didn’t explode when it could easily have, while I was driving at a fast speed on the highway that day. Again, it’s my own responsibility for entrusting the car to that workshop and have limited knowledge about car and tyres.

I told my husband, “Okay. That’s enough. We leave Langkawi. I want to appreciate the remaining life time in peace not being threatened by dishonest people and the ridiculous system of this island.” I am not fear of death, I am ready to leave anytime, but if possible, I do not want to suffer unnecessary suffering due to other people’s dishonesty.

Despite all the mentioned difficulties, we did have a very good long term grass-cutting man who would come to cut the grass for us once every two months in the past 10 years. We are thankful for that. And the good thing about living in Langkawi is there’s no traffic jam (yet) and there are nice waterfalls, even though the locals have the habit of leaving rubbish everywhere and maintenance is not great. And we are thankful to Langkawi and the houses that we lived in, allowing many retreats had been happening and people from all over the world came to be learning and practicing yoga with us there, allowing us to share yoga with so many people. Thank you for all the supports.

We chose to move to Penang Island for start, and then we will see what happen. If we have to move somewhere else, it really doesn’t matter. The system in Penang Island could be worst or maybe better than Langkawi, we don’t know yet. And many parts of the world are going through certain difficulties. I don’t need to have a yoga studio or retreat centre. I don’t need to teach yoga restricted to a particular place.  I don’t need to teach yoga at all. I just want to have a place to live and do my own practice, if possible. If it’s not possible, I live and practice as I am. As a writer and editor, my husband can live anywhere. And in terms of the writing and reading scene, social, music, arts and cultural development, Penang has a lot more to offer than in Langkawi.

Finding a place to rent in Penang also wasn’t easy for us. We had to spend quite some money coming here twice to be looking for a place. We met some ‘good’ people helping us in certain things, we also met some ‘helpful’ people who only interested to take advantage of us. Anyway, we found a good enough place and paid the deposit to reserve it, even though the owner has some issues and doesn’t want to give us long term contract. As the moving out from Langkawi is the most complicated difficult part. We need to have a place secured even if it’s temporary. Once we arrived in Penang, then even though if we have to find another place later within Penang, or if we need to move to another place in Malaysia, or even outside Malaysia, it will be a lot easier in Penang than in Langkawi.

In this new place, my husband can swim everyday at the 50 metres well-maintained swimming pool, we seldom use the air-conditioner as the place is well ventilated, the windows can be opened and closed, we don’t have to keep lights on when we are not at home or when we go to sleep, there are security guards, there’s convenience of getting grocery and fresh produce, there’s no lizard shit, no cats leaving behind dead animals/shit/pee/fleas, no snakes or centipedes coming into the house, there’s a balcony to sit out comfortably without being eaten by ants and mosquitoes, there’s nice hill view and sea view from the windows and balcony, we can cook if we want with many choices of fresh produce available, or there’s plenty of restaurants or food courts nearby that have plenty choices and good quality of food at reasonable price (not tourists price), the people working in the shops and restaurants are friendly and courteous, my husband can read and write under proper lighting, there’s fast speed internet, there are many reading, writing, arts and cultural events in Penang for my husband’s interest, there’s hiking trails nearby, there’s good rubbish management, I found a car workshop where the people are really helpful, and many more, so far.

All is impermanent.

Be happy.

My life stories – Part 10

My life Stories – Part 10
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

We had been travelling a lot being away from Langkawi last year. Wherever we went, we enjoyed our stay and travel in these different places with different cultures, scenery and climates. We are also very happy to be back in Langkawi not travelling to some other places. Living in Langkawi isn’t any much different from being in a beautiful holiday destination. Many people from around the world come here for holidays. Throughout our travelling during our stay with our family and friends, and staying in many different tourists guest houses, I continued my daily yoga asana practice wherever we went, in additional of the yoga practice within the mind every moment which is unseen from the appearance.

Yoga asana practice coordinates with the breath which requires certain amount of self-discipline, faith, concentration, awareness, acceptance, adjustment, determination, forbearance and perseverance, isn’t all of yoga. It’s one of the many sides of the yoga practice which can help us to influence the state of the mind, to purify the mind, to bring the mind into the present, to channel our energy into performing spiritual practice to realize unconditional love and peace, to develop divine elements or qualities to counter evil or negative tendencies, to develop non-attachment and non-identification with the body and mind, to let go of the ego, cravings and aversions, and eventually be free form all sorts of suffering that derived from ignorance and egoism.

Yoga asana practice being practiced with the correct attitude and understanding helps us to realize and accept the truth of impermanence in everything, for us to be able to let go of attachment towards the qualities of name and form, and thus be unaffected, or undisturbed, or undetermined by the impermanent qualities of name and form that the mind perceives through the senses. It also helps to maintain a better condition of physical and mental health for us to make good use of this body and mind, or this life existence, to help ourselves to have peace and to serve other beings.

At home in Langkawi, whether we are running yoga retreats, or not, I maintain my daily yoga asana practice even if it’s only for one hour in the evening after sending our retreat guests back to the guest house. When we are running yoga retreats, I will get up around 6.00 am, and will be continued busy until after 9.00 pm, or sometimes after 10.30 pm if we bring our guests to the town for dinner and to explore the local night market. When there is a short break in between yoga classes, I’ll still be busy with preparing the dinner.

I enjoy very much being busy with running the yoga retreats, teaching yoga classes, doing the maintenance works like cleaning and tidying our yoga studio and our home, where our retreats’ guests have their meals with us, being the driver sending our guests between our yoga studio and the guest house, shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and what we need for the retreats, and cooking for our guests.

When there are no yoga retreats, I also enjoy having more free time for ourselves (my husband and I) spending time together going to the beach, or to the waterfalls and to do the things that we aren’t able to do when we are running the retreats. Usually I practice my daily asana routine for about two hours when we are not running retreats, as well as writing some blog posts inspired by my daily personal yoga practice and from giving yoga classes.

Rarely, some days I will take rest from asana practice. I don’t feel bad or uncomfortable when I don’t perform asana practice for a day or a few days, as that is the resting moments which my body requires for that time being, to be away from too many physical activities. It doesn’t matter if there’s no suitable time or space for me to practice yoga asana, the yoga practice within will never stop.

During our travelling in India for more than one an a half months, I had encountered quite serious discomforts on my left knee coming from old injuries resulted from my previously more than twenty years of high impact fitness workouts and competitive physical trainings for competitions. I couldn’t walk properly. It woke me up during my sleep for many nights. But still, it didn’t stop me from doing my daily yoga asana practice. I still continued with my yoga asana practice with some modifications to allow my knee to heal itself with some exercises that help to strengthen and maintain the mobility of the muscular tendons that support the knees. In the present, after almost four months having discomforts on my left knee, it’s back to its normal condition (discomforts free).

These are the videos of my daily yoga asana practice in India while having the knee discomforts. It wasn’t much different from my usual asana practice, but I performed the exercises with some adjustments to accommodate the discomforts in my left knee :

 

Basically, I live a very simple lifestyle. Besides the daily life routines, I spend most of the time doing yoga, purifying the thoughts, speech and actions, observing the mind and watching the ego, developing and strengthening the inner strength and inner flexibility, letting go of selfish desires, cravings and aversions, and any impurities or impure thoughts that arise in the mind; running yoga retreats, giving yoga classes and sharing yoga through the blogs. I spend some of the time on doing house works, washing and cleaning which I enjoy very much. I never feel there’s any separation from yoga whether I am doing some yoga practice in particular name and form, or not.

It doesn’t matter my body is at rest or in action, being with some other people or being with myself, I don’t feel separation from yoga. Whatever I do or don’t do, all are not separated from yoga practice. Buddhism practice, Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga are all in actions and inactions. It’s all about eliminating the selfish egoism, to remove ignorance, to be free. All these are the yoga and meditation practice in life every moment.

I spend lots of time being with myself (whether surrounded by people and happenings, or being alone), especially when there are no retreats. I don’t feel myself being isolated from anything or anyone, even when I am alone by myself. I don’t feel that I need to be in certain place, or be with certain people, or to do certain things, to feel good, happy, meaningful, love and peace. Wherever I am or I am not, whatever I am doing or I am not doing, I am at ease. Usually I stay out of unnecessary ‘troubles’ when I can see them coming. If I can’t avoid them, I accept them as they are.

I try to stay away from social gossips and vain talks as much as possible.

I don’t need to go to Ashrams or silent retreats to cut off from social life activities for me to observe silence, seclusion, self-contemplation, self-discipline, or to practice yoga and meditation, although occasionally I will spend some time in the Ashrams and silent retreat centres. But there’s no difference for me in my own practice, whether I am inside or outside of the Ashrams and retreat centres. As the mind is being in the present follows wherever the body goes.

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

Before we moved to this house where we are living now, I didn’t cook at all. My husband did all the cooking for the meals of our yoga retreats. I had started preparing food and cooking for our yoga retreats only about a few months ago. This was possible after we had rented this house with bigger kitchen and dining hall, and we only use the wooden house as yoga studio for the retreats classes and activities. It’s also conveniently located very close by to our yoga studio.

I enjoy very much preparing and cooking the food for our yoga retreat guests. I had no idea how to cook or what to cook, but I was determined to try to learn to cook from watching you tube videos and getting recipes from the Internet. My husband was my food taster. It didn’t matter to me in the beginning the food tasted not so good. I kept trying to experiment cooking. Until my husband thought it was good enough, I started preparing and cooking the dishes for our yoga retreats.

Because I love eating Malaysian food, Chinese food and Thai food, I have been trying to cook a few dishes like Chinese style stir-fried different types of vegetables, vegetarian Thai green curry, vegetarian Nyonya sambal with Tempe, Achar – vegetables pickles, boiled or mashed potato, vegetable soups, pan fried or grilled mushrooms. Basically I didn’t have precise measurement for the ingredients that I use. That’s why they tasted slightly different every time when I cooked. My husband will prepare the Chickpeas curry, Turmeric tofu with ginger and lemon grass, vegetarian lasagna with Tempe, hummus, tahini, condiment dressings for salads, home made bread and a few other vegetable dishes which I haven’t know how to cook yet. He is a very good cook.

I am contented, grateful and appreciate the present living condition which is very conducive and convenient for me to practice yoga and what we are doing in the present moment, as well as what and where the universe is leading us, or going to lead us.

Om shanti.

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