My life stories – Part 3

My life stories – Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ ON…

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My life stories – Part 2

My life stories – Part 2
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

I went to an English medium preschool kindergarten for one year before I entered a Chinese medium primary school for six years. I met and mixed with other children who were same age as me and from multi races. I made some good friends and learned about life from these friendships.

Whether I was born this way, or I was brainwashed and taught to be like this, there is something that I always strongly believe in – truthfulness and honesty. I was always very careful about not committing any wrong or immoral doings. If I realized I did something that I believed was wrong, I would admit my wrong doings and ask for forgiveness immediately. Though during the two years when I was disturbed by unhappiness, anger and hatred, I had intentionally hurt other people through my thoughts, actions and speech, especially to my parents.

Sometimes I forgot to do my homework, I went to inform the teacher that I hadn’t done my homework and gave my palm to the teacher to discipline me with a stroke of caning. When the marked exam paper came back to us, I would go to the teacher and asked for remarking and to deduct the extra points if I found out that the teacher mistakenly gave me more points than it should be. We don’t take what doesn’t belong to us. This might be referred as “stupid honesty” by some people, but it’s a great virtue in the teachings of Buddhism and Yoga.

If I found something left unattended in the school compound, I would bring it to the teacher. When the cashiers in the shops carelessly gave me extra change, I would give it back to them so that they wouldn’t get into trouble for losing money from the cash machine. I wouldn’t take anything that doesn’t belong to me. I wouldn’t accept any gifts or receive help from anyone, unless I knew the person who wanted to give me something or help me was pure and sincere.

I was very self-independent and self-initiative. I didn’t need my parents to wake me up in the morning to prepare myself to go to school. I was always punctual and be responsible for myself and all my duties. I always kept my promises that I made to other people. I would show up on time after I had arranged a date to meet up with my friends, even if the date was months later. I would do what I said I wanted to do for myself or for others. That’s why I don’t simply make promises to anybody unless I know I can do it.

My primary school’s class teacher was aware of the truthfulness and honesty in me. One day, she granted me an honour for being honest – In front of all the classmates, she stood up for me and guaranteed that I am an honest and truthful person who won’t tell lies or steal anything, to defend my innocence because of a little incident that happened in our classroom that day.

Someone in the class had been stealing things from most of the classmates from time to time. Things had been missing from our bags or desks. My colour pencils and water bottle also went missing.

One day, my classmate who sat in front of me told our teacher that his exercise book was missing. And so, our teacher called upon everyone and asked whoever took his exercise book to come forward and return the book. He or she would be excused and be forgiven. But there was nobody stepped forward or said anything. The entire class was never been so quiet. Then the teacher asked everyone to search their bags to see if there might be a chance that the exercise book was in one of our bags. I didn’t know what happened, but surprisingly, I found the exercise book in my bag.

Without any fear or guilt I told the teacher and everyone that the exercise book was in my bag and I honestly didn’t know why it was in my bag. I might have put it in my bag accidentally, or someone might had put it into my bag unintentionally or intentionally. For me, it really didn’t matter because I knew I didn’t take it or steal it. But then everyone had the same reaction of thinking that I must be the thief who had stolen the exercise book. The entire class went from silent to noisy. Everyone was pointing their fingers at me and whispering to each other, as if I was guilty for stealing the book. But because I was always being truthful, honest and straightforward, my teacher immediately stood up for me and defend my innocence. She asked everyone to believe in me that I was innocent and I was an honest and truthful person that I wouldn’t tell any lies or steal anything, and she would guarantee that. And so, everyone stopped judging me, but respected me for being a truthful and honest person from that moment.

Since then, my belief about being truthful and honest became stronger than before. By observing truthfulness and honesty will gain such trustworthy and respect from everyone. If somebody who was jealous of me tried to accuse me for something that I wasn’t responsible for, or if someone questioned about my honesty, the people who knew me would believe in me and stood up for me. That’s the power of truthfulness and honesty.

For the first three years in the primary school, I was very bad at Mandarin, but I was good at Malay and English. This was because I had went to an English medium kindergarten. I was good at mathematics and science too. I always paid attention in the class and would asked the teacher immediately after class if there was anything that I missed out or didn’t understand. I seldom study after school, but I could get good results for the examinations.

I was never being close to my two brothers and my sister. We seldom played together when I was growing up. I guess one of the reasons was because there were many years difference between me and them. It’s also because they went to English and Malay medium’s school. They didn’t know Chinese at all. And so, they couldn’t help me in my homework and study as all my subjects were in Chinese. Anyway, I didn’t need anyone to help me in my homework and study. I never needed to go for extra tuition classes like most of my classmates.

I also had very good image memory to remember what I had read. I didn’t need to revise what the teachers taught us in school everyday. I just needed to go to sleep early on the night before the exam, and got up at three in the morning. I browsed through the text book while listening to some music. I would remember page by page of what I had read and could answer the questions exactly like a print out from the book. Though I never bothered about the results and placing in the class, I often had very good results from the examinations. Maybe it was because my parents never pressured us and we didn’t feel that we needed to compete with other people or among our siblings. I never felt that I needed to be good enough so that I would receive love and attention from my parents. My parents never tried to bribe us with things or presents to encourage us to get good results in school examinations. They just told us to do our best. Even though my parents never pressured me to achieve good results, I was self-initiated to do well most of the time, not that I needed to prove to my parents or myself, but naturally, I just did well because I wanted to. My parents loved us the same even though my brothers weren’t very smart and always failed in most of the subjects in school examinations. I am really glad we have such parents.

On one of the celebration days where everyone cooked and ate glutinous rice dumpling, my family had came together to tease me. The lesson was we shouldn’t eat too much glutinous rice dumpling at one time no matter how delicious they are, as eating too much glutinous rice is indigestible and will cause drowsiness. When I came back from school that afternoon, I ate a few of the dumplings my mother made for the family and they were really delicious. Not long after eating, I felt really drowsy and I went for a nap which turned into a deep sleep for a few hours.

Then my mother came to my room to wake me up and told me that it was time to go to school. I was still in a very drowsy condition. I was blur-blur. I didn’t know what was going on and I believed what my mother said to me. I turned to look at the clock, it was six something. Usually the school bus came around that time in the morning to pick me up. At that moment, I heard the bus went passed our house.

I panicked. I was never late for anything. I quickly jumped off the bed and ran to the bathroom. I washed my face and brushed my teeth, ran back to my room and changed into my school uniform, took my school bag and ran out to the gate, and stood there waiting for the school bus to come back for me. I remembered that I was telling myself, “I haven’t done all my homework yet!”

When I was running to the bathroom which was located at the back of our house, I passed by the living hall and the kitchen. I saw my brother was in the living hall pumping the kerosene lamp for the house. Our house didn’t have electricity supply yet at that time. Meanwhile, my mother was cooking in the kitchen. Usually they wouldn’t be awake and do all these things in the early morning. When I ran out to the gate I also saw some children were talking and playing around. Usually nobody would be playing and making noise in the early hours. It all didn’t make sense, but I didn’t suspect anything because I was panicking about being late for school. I still hadn’t a clue what was going on. I was so blurred by the drowsiness and so naive to believe what my mother said to me – “It’s time to go to school.”

I was standing in front of the gate in my school uniform with my school bag.

A few moments later, everyone started to look at me and laughed. My mother came out from the house, grabbed me with her strong arms and carried me back into the house while telling me the truth that it was evening time, not morning! It was dinner time. That’s why there were children playing out there! That’s why my mother was cooking and my brother was pumping the kerosene lamp to light up the house! And the school bus that I heard was sending school children back home.

Until now we still remember what happened that day and we would laugh about it.

I was an outgoing girl who liked to ride my bicycle and went everywhere. I danced most of the time, climbed up the trees, and played with boys and fought with them playing “kung fu fighting”. I played football, basketball, baseball, badminton, flying kites and catching butterflies. I also played rope jumping, hide and seek, slippers throwing, hopscotch, ‘five stones’, and etc. I liked to hang out on the sand hills and the wood factory on top the hill opposite our house. Sometimes I hung out at my friend’s house. I was the leader of the gang of our friends in the village. Among of them were two sisters named Ya Li and Ya Fang. They lived further inside the village closer to the Klang river. There was a Sikh family who had a small cowshed near the river. They bred some cows for fresh milk and sold it in a big milk can placed on top of a bicycle going around the village. I liked to organize games like playing court case, where each of us played a character in the court. We also liked to sing in the school bus. Because of my energetic activities, I had several scars on my knees coming from falling onto the ground while playing and fell off the bicycle many times.

One day, I went to my friend’s house to sleep over. I brought my own pillow and bolster with me. I walked to her house which was about 200 meters away from our house. I was seven years old then. I was so embarrassed that day because I had peed on her bed in the middle of the night. I apologized to her parents the next morning. Everyone knew about it and teased me for that incident and laughed about it for some time. Though this childhood good friend of mine whose name was Lye Wan didn’t go to the school that I went to, she and I had spent so much time together as we grew up together in Kampung Pinang. We lost contact for more than 23 years after the village was gone. One day, she found me on Facebook in 2009.

I befriended a few other kids who were living in the same village, but not from the same school or taking the same school bus. I was good friend with a girl named Shi Huey who was five years younger than me whose house was right behind our house. She always came over to my house to play with me. She fell down on our terrace and lost two of her front teeth on my twelfth birthday’s party. I also knew a girl named Sally who was one year older than me. She came from a Catholic family. I spent lots of time hanging out with her for many years. She became a hairdresser and had her own hair salon near Old Klang Road. I even rented a room in her hair salon to set up my first aerobics dance studio when I was eighteen years old.

There was a Punjabi girl named Sonny who lived opposite my house had picked up Cantonese from being friend with me. We spent lots of time together cycling in and around the village. Sometimes I went to her house for Punjabi meal and she also came to our house for Chinese meal.

I was good friend with a brother and sister named Ah Sang and Ah Fong who were a few years younger than me. They lived next door to our house and we have the same surname. Our surname ‘Lai’ was not a common surname. In the Chinese tradition, those who have the same surname will treat each other like brother and sister even though they might not related to each other. They always came over to our house and we liked to climb up the big cherry tree in our garden. I even organized a ‘bank saving account’ game. I was the banker and a few of my friends would save some coins with me every day. I kept a note book and wrote down the amount of money that they gave me, or took out. Sometimes we would use the total savings to buy some snacks and shared among ourselves. Those were such happy days.

All these childhood happy days disappeared when my family suffered from financial problem for some reasons related to my sister and her late husband, which made me very angry and unhappy for more than two years. Anyway, he died from a horrific work accident years later.

During the financial difficult moments in our family, I had shut myself off from everybody. I was full of anger and hatred and I was very depressed. I didn’t want to talk to my family for a long time. I locked myself in the bedroom and danced every night for a few hours to release my unhappiness. I developed a very special affection for small insects during that time and would prefer to talk to little insects especially bugs, than talking to people. I went out in the middle of the night and sat on the hilltop by myself watching the stars in the sky. I was not afraid of anything.

It is true that a person who is full of anger and hatred will not be afraid of anything, not even God, Devil, or Hell. When a person has intense anger and hatred in the heart, he or she doesn’t believe in anything at all. And so, what is hell and what is God are meaningless to this person. I prayed to Devil when I was very angry and I cursed everything and everyone, including my parents, my family, the people on the street, the sun, the moon, the stars, and God, even though all these things, people and the universe has nothing to do with my unhappiness. I was so unhappy, angry and full of hatred.

My second elder brother was three years older than me. He was also disturbed by our family financial problems and became very cold and rebellious. He couldn’t forgive our parents and our sister and her late husband for many years. I left school a year before the secondary school final year, which was a pity, but I never regret about it because in the end, wisdom and peace and happiness are not coming from school education, but it’s coming from within ourselves through life experiences and self-realization. No doubt that school education is very important to learn how to read and write and communicate, to learn about different languages, cultures, religions, sports, morality, geography, history, mathematics, science and professional skills for living, but how many schools teach us how to be happy and have peace, or teach us how to transcend suffering and be free from unhappiness, ignorance, anger, hatred, greed, fear and worry?

We may have read a lot of books, have many talented skills, speak many languages, know about many things, have been to many places in the world, and have many friends, but it doesn’t guarantee that we will be free from suffering of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, doubts, fear and worry, and will have peace and be happy in life.

I was lucky to be able to transform myself and came out from misery that had kept me in two years of darkness. I started to talk to my parents again and showed love and care for them. But my brother was continuing to be very unhappy for many years. Only until recently he forgave my family and started to care for my parents again just a couple of years before my mother died, which was good for him and my parents. Or else, he would regret for the rest of his life, if he hadn’t forgave my parents before my mother died, and she wouldn’t have peace as well.

Though I wasn’t a sociable person at school I made a few true and sincere friends after spending six years together in the same class at the primary school. We continued to be friends and kept in touch with each other once in a while after we finished primary school. Sadly, one of them killed herself in 2004 just before I went to India for the Yoga Teachers Training Course. Her sudden death gave me a great reflection about life, suffering and happiness.

She was born into a broken family. Her father was a wealthy businessman. Her parents were forced to get married as her mother was pregnant with her at young aged. They were separated when my friend was just a few months old and both of them had formed another family after their divorce. Both her parents abandoned her. Her grandmother took her in and looked after her. She was very grateful for that and she loved her grandmother very much, which was also the reason why her depression became more serious when her grandmother passed away. She was one of the top graduates of higher education. She worked as a marketing manager in a big advertising company, and smoked at least 2 packets of cigarettes a day.

Her first marriage lasted for one year. She married to the man whom she thought she knew very well after being best friend for 10 years. The husband was well-educated and had a high income nine to five office job, just like some other well-educated men.

Not long after they were married, she then realized her newly-wed husband was like a complete stranger to her. She started to discover many things that she didn’t know about him. She was so shocked with the truth of his real personality and was deeply disappointed with their relationship and marriage. She didn’t know that he was such an irresponsible man until they lived together sharing a life under the same roof. She found out that her husband was addicted to gambling seriously. She knew he gambled occasionally just like all the other Chinese community, but she thought that was just one of the leisure activities that most Chinese like to engage with. He liked to go to Genting Highlands Casino for gambling. Unfortunately, he lost a lot of money and started to borrow money from the loan sharks money lender. He lost all the money borrowed from the loan sharks and didn’t have the money to pay back the loan. He secretly went to her father and borrowed a lot of money from him. He lied to her father about why he needed to borrow so much money and convinced him not to let her know about it. He took all the money borrowed from her father to Genting Highlands again for more gambling hoping to win back what he had lost, but instead, he lost everything he had. He couldn’t pay back the loan sharks and was in debt with the father-in-law. And so, what he did? He ran away without telling her and went missing for many months without any contact from him.

What worst was, he didn’t just run away. He also took all her savings in cash which she kept in the house. She didn’t want to keep money in the banks. She said she didn’t trust the bank. She taught she could trust her husband, but she was wrong.

She only found out the truth about her husband when the loan sharks came to her house looking for the husband, and threatened her to pay back the money borrowed by her husband who had ran away shamelessly. She also found out about the husband had borrowed lots of money from her father. She was completely heartbroken.

Meanwhile she found out that she was pregnant, which the husband had no idea about it. She was supposed to be very happy for having to be pregnant because she always wanted to have her own children ever since she was a young girl. She strongly believed that a woman’s life wouldn’t be complete until she had her own children to form a perfect family. She was very worried for her unborn child to have such an irresponsible, selfish and shameless father. She made a very heart-breaking decision. She went for an abortion out of great anger and disappointment. She felt guilty for that afterwards and had regretted it for the rest of her life. She filed a divorce after her husband’s disappearance for many months. He showed up one day to sign the divorce paper, but seeing him again was like putting salt onto the existing wounds.

Few years later she met another well-educated man also with a decent high income job. She fell in love and got married again. Not long after they were married, she got pregnant not once, but twice. She was very happy to have her own children that she always dreamt of. She was determined to quit smoking while she was pregnant for the sake of the baby’s health. She continued her two boxes of cigarettes every day as soon as she stopped breast feeding.

She suffered post natal depression after the first baby. She recovered, but not for long. She wanted another baby to fulfill her wish to have a few children to complete her perfect happy family life. She was pregnant again two years later and gave birth to another baby boy. We went to her house to visit her and the baby. She didn’t talk about her problems. She seemed happy with her wishes came true and was very loving towards her new born baby boy. Her husband seemed like a good gentleman.

A few months later, one of our classmates called me in great distressed and told me that she had passed away about a month ago. The three of us used to hang out together frequently before her second marriage and the two pregnancies. We didn’t know what had happened to her or how she died. Nobody knew anything about her sudden death, not any of our classmates. The husband didn’t inform anyone of us about her death and the funeral. I had called her and texted her many times before and after her death, but there was no reply. Then only I knew why she hadn’t returned my calls and messages. Because she was dead. We couldn’t keep in the dark and wanted to find out what had happened to her.

My friend called her husband. The husband didn’t want to tell her anything about her death, but just said that the two boys were living with his parents in Penang. We were looking for an answer. Finally, we found our answer from an old newspaper dated November 9th, 2004. It was really heart-breaking and painful for us to read the article about her death. The article was about how she had jumped from her 15th floor apartment’s balcony and fell to her death instantly in the morning about 10.30 a.m. on November 8th, 2004. The neighbours told the reporters that they always heard arguments from her apartment about money issues.

We knew about her death in December 2004, and I went to India in early January 2005. I was very sad about her death, but I was more determined to find out the truth about suffering and the path of liberation from suffering. She had chosen what she wanted to do with her life. I respect her decision.

That was the past. I continued my journey in search for real peace and happiness.

Thanks to the Dhamma, Madonna and everyone who had inspired and helped me to come out from miseries. Thanks to my parents who didn’t question me for my bad behaviour and they didn’t abandon me and were very patient with me, and continued to love me and care for me, gave me their supports to pursue my dreams in dancing, and for me to have the opportunity to teach aerobics classes for making a living to support myself and my parents.

My mother was the driver who sent me everywhere to teach aerobics classes. She waited in the car park until I finished teaching and then sent me back home because I didn’t learn how to drive yet, not until I was thirty three years old. I had fear of crossing the road and fear of driving in the past because I was involved in a few car accidents as a passenger when I was a child. It would take me very long time to cross over the road. I would wait until there was completely no cars in sight to cross the road. But now it’s a different story. I love and enjoy driving very much. I’m free from fear. After I learned how to drive and bought a small car to travel in and around Kuala Lumpur, I managed to teach a lot more aerobics classes which led to a higher income that allowed me to have a little bit of savings for myself after giving money to support my parents’ living every month.

And thanks to myself, who had uplifted and loved myself and saved myself out of the ocean of ignorance and suffering.

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