My life stories – Part 6

My life stories – Part 6
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

I continued my journey of yoga and Buddhism after the library finished. One day in April 2004, my employer from a dance studio where I had been teaching aerobics classes for many years had called me in the afternoon and asked me if it was possible for me to teach a yoga exercise class for her that evening. The yoga teacher couldn’t make it and it wasn’t the first time. Somehow, I was free that evening, even though I was always busy with teaching classes everyday. I took up the offer because it meant extra money for me. I had to continue to support my parents after I came back from the world sport aerobics championship in France. I had to teach many classes everyday to make a living at that time. The pay for aerobics instructor wasn’t very high.

I taught some yoga exercise classes in the past before, but not for long. I wasn’t interested at all in teaching yoga exercise classes. I thought yoga exercise class was really boring. I was more interested in disco dancing and vibrant cardio fitness exercises with energetic music. That was why I enjoyed doing and teaching aerobics dance very much. At that time, most of the yoga poses were contradicted with the rules and regulations of the fitness teaching industry. Lots of the yoga poses would be categorized as dangerous physical positions with high risk of injury. I didn’t think that I would be teaching yoga one day. Of course, there’s a huge difference between teaching yoga and teaching yoga exercise classes. We maybe doing some yoga poses everyday, but it doesn’t mean that we are practicing yoga. Vice versa, we maybe not doing any yoga poses everyday, but it doesn’t mean that we are not practicing yoga.

There was a situation in Malaysia around twenty five years ago, where the yoga teachers criticized the aerobics exercises were harmful to the physical body and the aerobics instructors criticized the yoga poses were promoting serious physical injuries. There were many women came to ask me why did the yoga people said that aerobics dance could cause their uterus to drop. There were rumours circulating in the fitness industry that doing yoga exercises could cause serious neck injuries, back problems, knee problems, blindness, stroke and some other side-effects. It was like a war of criticism between the aerobics fitness industry and the yoga industry for attacking their competitor, to get the people from the other side to support their products and services. As well as the aerobics instructors and the yoga instructors also tried to protect their source of income to get more people to join their classes and stop their existing clients from leaving to join other exercise classes by saying bad things about some other types of exercise that they don’t teach.

But we can’t put traditional yoga asana practice and aerobics dance exercise in the same category, or apply the same rules and regulations on them. They are completely two different forms of practice. Yoga asana practice is very slow pace, gentle, stilled body positions, very few repetitive movements, non-competitive and almost without impact. Meanwhile aerobics dance exercises are fast pace, violent, lots of high speed repetitive movements, competitive and with much higher impact. Above all, yoga asana practice is not about fitness training, although it enhances people’s health and fitness level as one of the by-products when it’s being practiced regularly. But there’s nothing wrong when people use the yoga asana exercises as a form of fitness training. Just that enhanced physical health and fitness level have nothing to do with the realization of unconditional love and peace. One can be very healthy and fit physically, but the mind might be not free from egoism, ignorance, impurities and suffering.

I honestly told the students in the replacement yoga class that I wasn’t a trained or certified yoga teacher, but I knew some yoga poses that I could guide them as an exercise class. I didn’t know that yoga was about self-evolution, peace and compassion, which wasn’t any different from the teachings and practice of Buddhism. I thought yoga was just some stretching exercises originated from India to promote good health, fitness and beauty. That was what I learned from the yoga classes at the yoga and aerobics dance academy in Petaling Jaya where I had worked more than twenty five years ago. In those forty five minutes yoga exercise classes, they only taught some yoga poses as a form of physical exercise and never talked about any yoga teachings or philosophy at all.

The response from the students in the replacement yoga class was very good and the majority of them had requested me to teach them once a week of yoga exercise class. I told them again that I was only a qualified aerobics instructor, that I wasn’t a yoga teacher, but they said that they didn’t mind.

So I started teaching yoga exercise classes once a week and getting higher pay than from teaching aerobics classes. Initially my intention for teaching yoga classes was to earn more money. But very soon that intention was gone and replaced with gratitude and loving kindness to share yoga with many others.

I learned that there’s a huge difference between the aerobics students and the yoga students. The behavior of the people was different. The atmosphere of the classes was very different. It was calm and peaceful in the yoga class and everyone seemed to be happy and content. I was calm, relaxed and refreshed after teaching a yoga class. I could feel the energy in my body was vibrating differently from teaching aerobics classes.

One day, one of the yoga exercise class students had doubted my qualification and asked me what type of yoga I was teaching and what were the Sanskrit names of the yoga poses and what were their benefits. I was very honest, and told her that I didn’t know what type of yoga it was, and I guessed the yoga exercises were to promote good health, fitness and beauty, and I didn’t even know what were the names of the yoga poses in English, not to say in Sanskrit.

I didn’t feel bad at all for being questioned about my qualification because I knew I wasn’t a yoga teacher. I didn’t pretend to be one. But that little conversation had initiated a strong desire in me to look for a yoga school to learn yoga. I wanted to know what yoga is. I wanted to teach yoga classes because I thought they were very good for me and everyone, and I wanted to be a responsible yoga teacher.

Besides teaching once a week of yoga exercise class at that dance studio, I also conducted a few yoga exercise classes at my own studio, where the response was very good as well. This had encouraged me deeper to pursue my wish to learn all and everything about yoga. I am thankful to everyone who had been influencing me, supporting me and encouraging me to learn and practice yoga.

It was September 2004. My sport aerobics mentor cum partner helped me to search through internet for Sivananda Ashram in India which was recommended by a yoga teacher in Singapore. I was in Singapore for a couple of weeks to update myself on the latest aerobics dance exercises in one of the famous fitness clubs in Singapore. Many years ago they started with one fitness studio and then they had maybe seven branches everywhere in Singapore years later. The lady boss was a very smart and kindhearted person. She wanted to employ me as her instructor when we met for the first time, but I wasn’t interested to work in Singapore. Once every two or three years, I went there to update myself by attending different types of fitness classes under many different fitness instructors. It also allowed me to have a break and not getting burnout from teaching classes all the time. That year, I attended most of the yoga classes as well, which I never did before in the past years. I never thought that one day I would be teaching yoga or practicing yoga. Unfortunately, many of the yoga teachers there didn’t know what they were doing. They had to keep looking at a notebook while giving the instructions to the students in the yoga classes. But then there was a particular yoga teacher who actually knew what she was doing, and I felt the calmness flowing through her that spread over everyone in the class, including me. So, I asked her for advice about where could I go to learn yoga. She didn’t say much but just gave me a name ‘Sivananda’. But that was already helpful enough.

I didn’t have a computer and never surfed the internet before. I knew nothing about information technology. I didn’t have an email account. My mentor said that he could help me to search the internet for ‘Sivananda’. He found the website for International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Kerala, South India, and printed out the registration form for me. Without any hesitation, or tried to look for some other yoga schools to compare, immediately I filled up the form and sent it off with the 300 USD deposit the next day, hoping to get a place for the yoga teachers training course in January 2005. The 300 USD was all the savings I had at that time. But I didn’t worry about how I could get the rest of the money.

I needed more than 15,000 Ringgit for me to go to India – the course fee, the flight ticket, the money for my parents and my car installment. My mother was ill at that time. She had a stroke for the third time and became paralyzed. Every month, I gave 1,800 Ringgit to my parents and left a few hundred Ringgit for my own living. Knowing that my sister might take away the money that I gave to my parents to pay her debts and bills, we didn’t tell my sister how much money I gave to my parents every month. Only my uncle knew about this because sometimes I passed the money to him to bring to my parents who were living with my sister in another town about an hour drive from where I lived.

Though initially I didn’t have all the money for the rest of the course fee, I never asked the Ashram to give me any discount, or asked for any special rates.

There are many people involved in running the Ashram and the courses. They contribute their time and effort in making the courses to be available to the people. The fees that we give to the Ashram is supporting the Ashram to be able to continue doing what they are doing – giving opportunities to many people to come to the Ashram to learn and practice yoga. It isn’t about give and take. It’s not about paying some fees or working as a volunteer for the Ashram in exchange for something that we want in return. When people volunteer to work in the Ashram is not about in exchange for free food and accommodation and free yoga classes, or to gain credits of working and teaching experiences to put into their profile as experienced yoga teacher who had been working and teaching in an ashram, though many people come to the Ashram with such intention. It is merely performing selfless service without selfish intentions and desires, without expecting anything in return, to eliminate the ego. At that time, people need to pay 200 USD per month to the Ashram if they want to live and work as volunteers in the Ashram. It’s not about what can I get from paying some fees to you or volunteering for you. There’s no guarantee that after we paid the fees or volunteering for the ashram, we will attain peace and happiness, and be free from ignorance and suffering.

People who are volunteering in the Ashram aren’t perfect either. If we feel disturbed by their imperfection it isn’t because they are not good enough or they didn’t do things right, but it’s because we expect them to be perfect, to be the way that we think they should be. We are disappointed by our own expectation that they should be wise and compassionate beings in order to work in the Ashram. But they are just like everyone else who try to do their best for themselves and for others. They also will have bad days and bad moods. They also need other people to be patient and compassionate towards them for being imperfect.

My mentor didn’t only help me in making my dreams come true, but he had also helped me in the connection with yoga. The first few emails between the Ashram and me were sent through his email address. He would inform me whenever the ashram sent me an email and he would reply the email for me. For all that he had done for me without asking anything in return, I am always grateful and indebted to him. He also looked after me when I was in financial difficult moments where my income from teaching aerobics classes wasn’t enough to support my family. He would pay for my food when we ate together after our sport aerobics training sessions. Sometimes my brothers would borrow money from me for them to have food to eat. During the worst days, I gave all my scarce savings to my brother who had no money for food, and I was using the coins in my piggy bank to get my own food. Less than two hundred Ringgit of coins was all that I had for the month until I get my next pay, and that was enough for me to survive for one whole month.

I decided to close down the aerobics dance studio before I left for India. I called my cousin in Singapore and asked him if he could lend me a few thousand Ringgit if I didn’t manage to get enough money when January arrived. Though he wasn’t rich he said he would help me out if I needed the money, but it turned out that I didn’t have to borrow any money from him or anyone at all.

Not long after I made the phone call to my cousin, some students started to recommend me to teach yoga classes and aerobics classes in some other studios. From my usual income about two thousand five hundred Ringgit a month, it had increased to about seven thousand Ringgit for the next three months. I had earned the biggest amount of money that I had ever earned before. Though I had to work very hard by teaching a lot more classes within that few months, I managed to save enough money to go to India.

A few weeks after I sent in my registration form, the people in the ashram informed me that I was confirmed a place and that I should prepare myself by reading the Bhagavad Gita. I had no idea what it was and I didn’t know where to get it. A few days later, an Indian woman came to join my aerobics classes. I talked to her about my wish to study yoga in India and asked her if she knew anything about the Bhagavad Gita. And she told me that her husband was a direct disciple of Swami Sivananda since he was a little boy, and he had been studying the Bhagavad Gita everyday. She told me that he would be happy to lend me the book.

It was two months before the course. I got the book of Bhagavad Gita commented by Swami Sivananda (published in 1989) which I finished reading within a few days. It had touched my heart deeply. I could naturally understand and resonate with all the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita. I realized that the teachings of yoga wasn’t any different from the teachings of Buddhism. It was what I always believing in and practicing all the time. This realization had strengthened my faith in the path of yoga and Buddhism, and had no fear to go to India for the first time by myself.

My departure flight to India was just two weeks after the deadly tsunami which hit Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, the Andaman Islands, Thailand and Northern Malaysia on the 26th of December 2004 that caused so much damages and casualties. Many people said that it was a bad timing to go to India as there were many diseases brewing not long after the tsunami. But it didn’t stop me from going. I was determined.

Initially the course was fully booked for more than two hundred participants, but many people didn’t turn up or had cancelled their trip to India because of the tsunami. And so there were about one hundred and sixty something people turned up for the course. My husband, whom I haven’t met at that time, actually was on the waiting list, and he got a place in the end because of the many cancellations. That was also how we got to know each other while attending the same course.

There was purification process happening in our body and mind when we went through intensive learning and practicing yoga in a course like that. There were past accumulated physical, emotional and mental blockages being released during the course. Different people experienced different types of purification. Most people cried a lot. Some of them went to the teacher for explanation because they didn’t understand why they feel like crying after the yoga practice even though they weren’t unhappy about anything. Some people got very impatient and agitated about many things. Some people had diarrhea, while others had constipation problem. Some people kept missing classes because they felt physically and mentally exhausted from the intensive practice and the disciplined daily schedule. Some of the students would get angry with the teachers when they didn’t get what they want and like. Some strongly disagreed with the teachings of yoga because they had strong attachment and identification with their own thinking and beliefs that were different from the teachings of yoga, and they even shouted at the teachers with bad words in front of the class. There was so much anger and hatred in these people. Again, that’s their freedom for what they wanted to think and feel and react, and it was part of the purification process.

Yoga is about attaining peace and harmony in oneself through respecting many other different types of thinking and beliefs that are existing in the world, even if we can’t agree with them. And we don’t have to agree with them, but we don’t have to be disturbed, or angry and hating either. But for some people, they believe that only their particular way of thinking and beliefs are right and good, while any other thinking and beliefs that are different from theirs, are wrong and bad. And they get irritated, angry and hating other people for being different from them. May them be free from anger and hatred, and find peace and harmony.

Some people left the course halfway because they didn’t agree with the teachings and they were really unhappy to be continuing the course. They came to learn yoga but it wasn’t the yoga that they were looking for. They wanted to learn yoga that wasn’t yoga. Some people even insisted that the yoga taught in the Ashram is not real yoga, but the yoga exercise classes that they attended at home that didn’t talk about any yoga teachings is real yoga. People can think and say what they want, and manipulate yoga into something that they prefer, but yoga is still yoga. While some others left the course because they didn’t want to go through the unpleasant purification process, and some felt that it was too intense for them to follow all the disciplines. In the end there were around one hundred and fifty five people had completed the course.

I was sicked for the first three weeks, but I never missed any classes. I didn’t ask for any medicine or go to a doctor. I knew that it was part of the purification process. I just observed and endured the inconvenience and discomforts coming from being sicked during that three weeks.

One evening after the dinner, I was studying the teachings of yoga in the office area as there was better lighting in the office than in the dormitory. There was also a proper bench and desk to do some writing. And then there were a few female students came in to see the teacher. They had some problems with some other yoga students that they wanted to complain to the teacher. The teacher looked at me, and then told them, “Look at her. She looks after herself. She doesn’t need to come to the teacher to complain about anything.”

After I came back from India, I found the Chinese version of the Bhagavad Gita on my book shelf. It was given to me more than sixteen years ago as a present from an ex-aerobics student. I never had any interest at all to pick up that book to read, but somehow I still kept it on my book shelf. And then, I realized that the Bhagavad Gita (the essence of yoga) was always with me, but I didn’t know. And now, this Chinese version of the Bhagavad Gita is with somebody who is at the right time to have it.

I wasn’t a person who liked to read books, but I read many of Swami Sivananda’s books after I came back to Malaysia, and they were all strongly connected to my heart. It was like a direct teaching from Swami Sivananda. Like all the other Dhamma teachers I had never met in person, I always feel that he is with me all the time, guiding me in silence. The Dhamma passes through this body and mind to other beings who need guidance to find their way back to their nature of unconditional love and peace.

Some people might criticize my classes and myself as a person for being very intense because I practice and teach about letting go of egoism. It makes no difference to me whether people compliment or criticize me. Everyone has the freedom to like or dislike anybody. That’s their freedom of thinking, action and speech. Those with strong ego and attached strongly onto certain qualities of name and form to be identifying as who they are, and they take pride in being who they think they are, they don’t like to hear the teachings of yoga about eliminating the ego. But I don’t and can’t teach what other people expect me to teach, and I can’t not teach what other people don’t like and don’t want to learn or practice. I teach yoga. Everyone who comes for the yoga classes is learning how to identify the ego and let go of the ego. Of course, it’s up to their own free will whether they want to practice yoga as it is, or not. I can only tell the students if there are some teachings or practice that they don’t like and don’t agree with, that they don’t want to learn or practice, they don’t have to learn or practice them and they can just put them aside. If one day they think they want to take up those teachings and practice, then they can come back for them.

If people don’t like to practice yoga about letting go of the ego, attachment and identification, no one can force them. The teachings of yoga teach about respecting everyone’s freedom of thinking, actions and speech, for what they want to do with themselves, their lives, their bodies and minds. Everyone takes the responsibility for the consequences of their own actions and inactions, for what they believe and disbelieve, for what they want and don’t want. No one can control or purify other’s mind. It is up to everyone’s own effort and free will to control and purify one’s mind. The teachings of yoga never condemn anyone who doesn’t like the teachings of yoga, or who doesn’t want to practice yoga as it is, or who misunderstands about yoga, or who criticizes yoga. Anyone can take up any yoga practice and practice anyway that they like, or do whatever they like with yoga, or they can stop practicing yoga for any reasons. There’s no condemn, or sin, or punishment.

Those who practice yoga, they don’t condemn nor criticize. Vice versa, those who condemn and criticize, they don’t practice yoga. We share yoga out of compassion, not out of egoism thinking that “Yoga is good for everyone. Everyone should practice yoga, and practice properly in a particular way, or else they are insulting the sacredness and purity of yoga.” One type of medicine may cure a person’s illness but may not necessarily has the same effect on another with the same illness, or would it cure some other form of illnesses. People react differently towards the same medicine and have different tolerance towards certain side-effects of that medicine which appear differently on different people. Some people may be a good friend for many others, but may not be a good partner or good parent. There are people dislike and disagree with the teaching and practice of yoga. That is their freedom. We can’t expect or force everyone to like yoga and practice yoga as it is. There are people who never heard about the teachings of yoga and don’t do any yoga practice in a particular name and form, but they are selfless, compassionate and peaceful beings. And if yoga is something sacred and pure, how can it be insulted or contaminated by anything at all?

Some people kept modifying the traditional yoga practices into many different new styles and versions to suit the preferences of what people like and don’t like, what they want and don’t want. Though there’s nothing wrong with that in terms of business marketing strategy and customer service and value, but then the yoga teachers are not really teaching yoga, and the students are not really practicing yoga. Instead it is empowering the egoism, attachment, identification, worldly thinking, ideas and habits, and encouraging the desires of craving and aversion of the egoistic mind. When we practice yoga, we stop giving the egoistic mind what it likes and wants. No doubt that sharing yoga is about sharing love and happiness. Yoga teachers are there to guide the yoga students on how to attain unconditional love and happiness by letting go the egoistic desires of craving and aversion. It’s not about giving them what they like and want, or don’t give them what they don’t like and don’t want, to gratified their desires of craving and aversion, to make them feel loved, satisfied and happy. They feel satisfied and happy is because they are getting something that they like and want, and not getting anything that they don’t like and don’t want. It doesn’t help them to be free from the desires of craving and aversion, to realize unconditional love and happiness. Once they don’t get what they like and want, and are getting something that they don’t like and don’t want, they will feel dissatisfied, disappointed, unhappy, or miserable. This is moving away from what yoga is about.

It isn’t a pleasant experience when one learns the truth of one’s impure egoistic mind. Most people would want to runaway. Those who have the courage to confront the impurities in the mind will also need strong discipline and will-power to purify the mind. The mind purification process requires tremendous patience, perseverance, determination, tolerance, forbearance, forgiveness, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation and acceptance. The entire practice is all about letting go of the egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving and aversion, and eventually seeing the truth of things as they are and be free from egoism, ignorance, impurities and suffering. All these teachings and practices seem to be anti-social and unpractical in the modern society for the worldly minded people.

Even when some people think that they love yoga and like to practice yoga, but actually what they really love is what they like and want, and what they can get from yoga. And there’s nothing wrong with that either.

There are many different paths in yoga to suit many people with different personalities and temperaments. But in the end, all are leading us back to oneness or non-separateness. If some people wanted to do yoga that is easy and pleasant for the egoistic mind, there’s nothing wrong with that. Enjoy doing the easy and pleasant yoga, and be happy. If people aren’t interested in attaining liberation from ignorance and suffering, that’s their freedom.

Teaching yoga is not about trying to convince other people to believe in the teachings of yoga, or to persuade other people to like yoga and practice yoga, or recruiting many people to be our yoga students and joining our yoga classes, or to set as an example for others to imitate us, or to build a yoga empire. The students shouldn’t follow or imitate the teacher, or blind-believe in the teachings of yoga or what the teacher taught them. It’s guiding the students to be free from egoism, and allowing them to be free from attachment and identification towards any thinking and beliefs including the teachings of yoga, but to investigate into the truth of everything, to attain self-realization. Everyone may or may not need some guidance, but it’s up to everyone’s free will to change their own thinking and behavior by developing self-control and self-discipline over their own thinking, actions and speech, and attain self-realization be free from ignorance, and realize unconditional love and peace, and stopped hurting themselves and others. The teacher doesn’t and can’t control or change the students, but can only give them guidance and encouragement. The teacher and the student will meet at the right time and the right place naturally when the time has come, without the influence of egoistic selfish desires.

There’s nothing wrong when people think that when they feel unhappy or angry, feel hurt and disappointed, it’s nothing to do with their own ignorance and egoism, but instead, it’s everyone and everything that they come in contact with, that are bad and wrong, that cause them unhappiness and suffering. There’s nothing wrong when people believe in God or disbelieve in God. It is everyone’s freedom of thought, actions and speech. But when one starts to have strong attachment and identification with what they think and believe, there will be separateness, discrimination, prejudice, hatred, violence, fear and unrest in their minds towards others who are different from them. Some people even enjoy being angry and violent. They won’t feel good unless they get angry and violent.

I came back to Malaysia after the yoga teacher training course, finished all my savings, without any money left to buy food. My students who knew that I came home with no money left, they invited me to their home and also brought me out for food for many days. But, very soon I started earning my living again by teaching classes at home and a few other dance and fitness studios. I continued to teach aerobics classes and yoga classes, but with deeper understanding about yoga. I also immersed myself into regular yoga practice.

In February 2006, I went back for the advance teachers training course which was more for our own personal practice, or Sadhana, than to teach classes, which was another great learning process for me. Again, somehow I managed to save enough money, which was about 18,000 Ringgit, to go to India for four months this time.

Coincidentally, I met my husband again in the same course and we went travelling together in India after the teachers training course, to learn more yoga and meditation from other schools and teachers. We attended a three weeks long yoga course with Iyengar teachers, Swati and Rajiv Chanchani, in Dehradun. We also attended Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Dehradun after the Iyengar yoga course. During this meditation retreat, I went through a very intense purification process where lots of pimples broke out on my whole body and my face as well. I didn’t bother about it. It had lasted for one and a half years before it cleared out from my system completely.

We also went to Gangotri, Rishikesh and Dharamsala after the courses.

On the way to Gangotri, we stayed a night at the Gangnani hot springs. We wanted to do the pilgrimage walk towards Gaumukh from Gangotri along the hilly paths of the mountains, but my husband felt sicked after about three hours walk. He wanted to go back to the hotel in Gangotri to take rest and he asked me to follow the other pilgrims to continue walking towards Gaumukh, and he would wait for me at the hotel. I couldn’t let him going back by himself as he was complaining dizziness and fatigue. And so, I insisted to go back with him, taking over the backpack he was carrying, and slowly we walked back to Gangotri. On the way, I told my husband that I wished to see snowing, as I never saw it before. And surprisingly a few minutes later, snow flakes started falling down from the sky. By the time we arrived at out hotel, the weather became bad where hailstorm were raging. We were lucky to have came back down to Gangotri that day and didn’t continue our walk. There were others pilgrims came back later in the evening, all wet and tired, and it was freezing cold below zero degree. Some of the women were trembling in shock, as they were caught in the hailstorm and there were landslides and rocks falling down in front of them. And they had to turn back as the path was blocked by huge rocks. We didn’t stay the night at Gangotri in the end, as it was too cold and the hotel didn’t have a heater. We went back to Gangnani hot springs to stay the night instead. We also visited the Sivananda Kutir in Uttarkashi on the way to Rishikesh the next day.

My husband and I got very sicked from food poisoning that lasted for a month from the first day we arrived in Delhi after we left the Sivananda Ashram, where both of us took turn to take care of each other at our worst condition. We knew each other a lot deeper during that two and a half months traveling together, which led my husband came to Malaysia to be with me in 2007, and we got married in 2008.

My husband had left India before me, as he had to go back to France working for a refuge in the Pyrenees. I had another two weeks in India by myself before my flight back to Kuala Lumpur. I took the train from Delhi to Trivandrum which took more than 54 hours. I stayed a few nights in Kovalam, and then I went to stay in an ashram that looked after underprivileged children in Trivandrum until the day I flew back to Malaysia. These children were not orphans, but their parents were either too poor or didn’t have the time or effort to look after them properly at home. And so, they came to stay in the ashram and were given food, accommodation and educational support until they reached eighteen years old.

While I was in Trivandrum, I went to a shop ran by an Indian woman who was being friendly to me initially, but when I told her that I had been travelling with my husband (my boyfriend at that time) in India for the last couple of months, she was so disturbed and angry that she spat on me because my husband and I weren’t married at that time. I learned about other people’s different thinking and cultural belief and practice, and I wasn’t disturbed by her reaction but respected her cultural belief and practice. I left in peace and wished her be in peace too.

Though there is a very significant teaching of yoga about seeing God in all and everything, that God exists in all and everything, but one doesn’t need to believe in God or spirituality to practice the teachings of yoga. For those who don’t believe in God, this teaching can be taught as seeing the one same universal consciousness of all and everything, which is the truth of impermanence and selflessness, that there’s no ‘I’ or individual existence exists in everything or in all the impermanent changes. For those who don’t believe in God or the one same universal consciousness, this teaching can be taught as seeing the element of teacher in all and everything to teach us something to attain higher understanding about worldly life existence, and be grateful and thankful for all kinds of good and bad experiences. Those who truly implement this teaching in everyday life wouldn’t be disturbed or determined by all the pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and wouldn’t generate anger or hatred towards anyone or anything, but they would respect the law of impermanence in all the different qualities of name and form, and respect all the different types of thinking, belief and behavior that exist in the worldly community as they are. This teaching leads us to peace and harmony in ourselves and not generating violence, anger and hatred in ourselves and into the world. But if our minds are over-powered by strong egoism and have pride and arrogance about ourselves and our thinking and belief, we would find this practice impossible or very difficult, unless we are ready to let go of the ego, pride and arrogance.

Peacelessness and disharmony exist in our minds is due to the strong egoism, pride and arrogance, attachment and identification, craving and aversion, greed and discontentment, fear and worry, and all kinds of impurities empowered by ignorance or corrupted thinking and belief in the mind. One also generates restlessness and disharmony into the surrounding environment when one isn’t peaceful and harmony. If every being is free from ignorance, egoism and impurities, naturally the society will be free from separateness, discrimination, prejudice, hatred, violence, fear and unrest. If we want peace in the world, we must have peace in ourselves. Having peace and harmony in oneself is the only effective way to help the world to have peace and harmony among all the different qualities and diversities. By being violent, angry and hating others and happenings that we don’t like and disagree with, and provoke anger and hatred in other people to also be angry and hating those whom we think they are bad and wrong, it wouldn’t help the world to be peaceful and harmony as how we would like it to be, but instead, we contribute so much restlessness and disharmony into the world, it doesn’t matter how good and right we think we are.

After I came back from the advance teacher training course, I retired from teaching aerobics classes and focused on teaching yoga. I learned that aerobics dance exercises were very good for fitness, but it didn’t help people to come out from miseries. And yoga would lead us to self-transformation besides giving health and fitness benefits to the regular practitioners. Though myself was quite physically fit I never emphasized on the physical ability to perform the yoga asana practice. I emphasized on disseminating the Vedanta teachings in all the yoga classes.

Teaching yoga is definitely not a job. It’s sharing and learning at the same time. It’s in everyday life. It’s in every relationship we have with everyone and everything. Everyone and everything is an instrument for passing the Dhamma from one to another to purify all kinds of impurities.

Before my own self-transformation, I perceived the world as a suffering place, and I was very angry and disappointed and feeling meaningless most of the time. But after the transformation, I didn’t see that there was anything bad or good about this world. Unhappiness is here, happiness is here too. Hell is here, heaven is here too. They are not out there in the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses. They are right here, right now, in our mind, upon how the mind reacts towards all the names and forms being perceived through the senses.

This was the story about how I had changed from teaching aerobics classes to teaching yoga. Everything was already there on the path for everyone. It was just waiting for the right time. Whether there were some good or bad experiences, they were all learning process for us to realize selflessness and compassion.

When we know what is yoga, we will know that teaching yoga has very little to do with qualification and certification coming from attending yoga teachers training courses. Yoga teachers training courses are for people to learn to become their own teacher. When one realizes the teacher within oneself, one will know that everything and everyone are teachers to teach everyone something. One will be free from discrimination and hatred towards anyone and anything, and will respect everyone and everything as they are. And naturally, one can also guide other people to become their own teachers to realize unconditional love and peace, without the need of any certifications, or authorization, or acknowledgement from anyone or any organizations.

It doesn’t matter whether we know the names of the yoga poses in English or Sanskrit, or not, and what type of yoga we practice and what are the benefits of the yoga exercises, because yoga practice is not about gaining the benefits from the yoga exercises at all, and knowing the names of the yoga poses and which type of yoga we practice have nothing to do with the realization of unconditional love and peace. It’s about letting go of egoism of attachment, identification, expectation, craving and aversion towards all our actions and the fruit of actions, or towards the yoga practice and the result of the yoga practice.

Yoga is about realizing compassion and selflessness through the practice of dispassion towards worldly objects and ideas, discrimination of what is real and unreal, eliminating the ego and quieting our own mind, and be free from all kinds of attachments, identifications, desires, craving, aversion and impurities. And all these practice have nothing to do with the impermanent condition and ability of the physical body to perform the yoga poses, or how many years we have been doing yoga exercises, or how much yoga exercises we had done, or how many yoga poses we can perform and whether we can perform the yoga poses in perfect alignment, or not. It’s also nothing to do with all the physical health and fitness benefits that come along as side-effects from the yoga practice. All these names and forms cannot guarantee or determine whether we know about yoga or not, whether we are practicing yoga or not, whether we can teach yoga or not, and whether we are free from ignorance and egoism, and be liberated from suffering, or not.

Many people including many yoga enthusiasts don’t like to hear about the practice of dispassion. They give themselves many reasons to justify themselves that they don’t need to be dispassionate, instead they promote passionate way of thinking and living. They said follow all our desires and live passionately. There’s nothing wrong with having desires and being passionate towards worldly life existence, self-image, ideas, ambitions and social activities, and everyone has the freedom to choose what they want to do with their life existence, but then it isn’t what yoga practice is about.

Dispassion towards worldly objects, ideas and activities helps to render the mind calm and quiet to be able to perform self-inquiry to know who we really are, or, who we are not. Passion invigorates strong attachment and identification with worldly life existence, the function and ability of the body and mind, and passionate desires of craving and aversion. Instead of quieting the mind, annihilating the worldly ideas and eliminating the ego, it is stimulating the mind, strengthening the worldly ideas and empowering the ego. Passion hinders the mind to see the truth of things as they are. But if people enjoy being passionate and don’t mind being restless, that’s their freedom.

Dispassion doesn’t mean that we have no love. It is loving the world and everyone as they are, without selfish desires or expectations, discrimination of likes and dislikes, attachment, identification, craving and aversion, not necessarily it’s the way that I like it to be, or the way that I think it should be.

Passion is loving the world and people with selfish desires and expectations, discrimination of likes and dislikes, attachment, identification, craving and aversion. It’s I love my world to be the way that I like it to be, or the way that I think it should be.

When one is free from ignorance and egoism, then there’s no difference between passion and dispassion. As one can live and perform actions passionately in the world, but is undisturbed and undetermined by one’s actions and the fruit of actions.

The realization of selflessness will allow us to be undisturbed or undetermined by whatever the mind perceives through the senses, and remain equanimous and be at peace unconditionally. When one has realized unconditional love and peace, one won’t be intentionally generating thoughts, actions and speech that will hurt oneself and others under any circumstances, which is compassion. And the realization of unconditional love and peace has nothing to do with the knowledge about anatomy and physiology, or the physical condition and ability and alignment to do the yoga poses.

Everyone can practice yoga and share the wisdom of yoga and its practice with anybody, when they are free from ignorance and egoism and have realized unconditional love and peace through their own persist and sincere practice. They don’t need a piece of commercialized paper to allow them to share love and peace with others. Those who haven’t realized unconditional love and peace in themselves, they can’t share love and peace with others even if they have been attending many yoga courses and possess many pieces of certifications. Those who think and believe that they need to attend professional yoga courses and acquire a few pieces of paper to accumulate credits to allow them to share love and peace with other people, then they don’t really know what is yoga. But their minds are influenced by worldly ideas and qualities of name and form.

All kinds of different yoga practices serve the purpose of influencing and purifying the mind preparing the mind for self-inquiry, or contemplation upon the truth of “Who am I?”

To practice yoga is not necessarily that we have to be doing some yoga asana exercises. Yoga asana practice is one type of the many yoga practices. Some people just do Japa and chanting alone. The practice of Japa and chanting generates harmonious vibrations to serve the purpose of influencing and purifying the mind. Some people just perform selfless service to eliminate egoism and attachment. Some just practice living in the present moment as they are. Some spend most of their time on contemplation. Some focus on observing their thoughts and have self-control over their actions and speech at all time. Same as all the other practices. Some people combine a few practice. Some practice all of the different practice. But in the end, all the different practice are related to one another when being practiced with non-attachment, non-identification, dispassion, right discrimination, desireless and free from craving and aversion. Ultimately is to free the mind from impurities to see the truth of names and forms as it is, and be free from suffering that derived from ignorance.

There are yoga centres that teach traditional yogic and meditation practices combine with the practice of dispassion, right discrimination, six fold virtues and the yearning for liberation that would gradually lead to the annihilation of egoism and ignorance. But most of the yoga classes we come across everywhere in the world are only about yoga asana and pranayama practice, and many are about using yoga asana practice as a form of fitness training to achieve fitness results, which is neither bad or wrong.

By doing some yoga asana and pranayama exercises regularly without the practice of dispassion, right discrimination, six fold virtues and the yearning for liberation, will bring some physical and mental benefits to the practitioners, but it doesn’t lead to the annihilation of egoism and ignorance, or be free from unhappiness and suffering. And thus, although people might have been practicing yoga and pranayama practice regularly, but if they still have strong attachment and identification with the worldly existence of the body and mind and are over-powered by the desires of craving and aversion, and have attachment towards their action and inaction and the fruit of action, then they would still be disturbed and determined by all the perceptions of name and form and have no peace, as the mind is in a state of restlessness being disturbed by ceaseless impurities arising and passing away in the mind due to the constant reactions coming from the ego towards all the perceptions of name and form generating craving and aversion towards what it likes and dislikes, agrees and disagrees with.

It’s not about how much good health, good feelings, physical strength and flexibility that we gain from practicing yoga, but whether there are less impurities and restlessness in the mind. There are less anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, ill-will, feelings of hurt, fear and worry. There is more peace and harmony. In the end, there’s only unconditional love and peace, being free from egoism, ignorance, desires, craving, aversion and suffering.

Traditionally, yoga asana practice is about holding a few different basic postures in stillness and at ease for as long as we are comfortable at. It’s knowing and respecting the limitation of this physical body without generating attachment, identification, craving and aversion towards its impermanent condition and ability. The skill, stamina, strength and flexibility will gradually develop as we practice regularly. In the beginning, when we first put our bodies and minds in certain positions that they aren’t familiar with, there will be certain degrees of discomfort or struggle and we need to exert great effort to perform the yoga asana practice. We need to endure the discomforts and be patient and persevere in our practice until one day the practice becomes steady and we can hold each position effortlessly for a prolong period of time.

There are many different variations of yoga poses that sprung from six basic positions. Yoga asana practice combines with the practice of pranayama serves the purpose of influencing the mind in different ways without using any external influences such like drugs or from another being, but using our own physical body and the breath as the tools. The purpose is mainly to balance and calm the mind so that the mind isn’t being overly elevated or depressed, while purifying the energy centres and channels, and unblocking any blockages, releasing physical, emotional and mental blockages. Instead of exerting energy in strengthening worldly ideas, desires and identifications, yoga practice is channeling the energy for realization of the truth, rendering the mind calm and pure to perceive the truth as it is.

The six basic positions are:-
1.) Inversions like headstand, shoulderstand and plough.
2.) Forward bends like sitting forward bend and standing forward bend.
3.) Backward bends like fish pose, cobra pose, locust pose and bow pose.
4.) Twists like sitting twist, standing twist and lying twist.
5.) Balancing positions like crow pose, peacock pose and tree pose.
6.) Side bends like standing side bend and sitting side bend.

Yoga asana practice is very different from the commercialized yoga fitness exercise classes. It’s beyond the physical fitness training. It isn’t about training the body to be able to perform complex exercises or challenging the physical body to go beyond its limitation to become super fit, flexible and strong. We don’t have to be physically fit, strong and flexible to perform yoga asana practice. But it’s using the physical body and the breath as tools to control our mind, to balance the mind, to purify the mind, to calm the mind, and eventually allowing the mind to be able to perceive the truth of things as they are under a pure and calm mind, and be free from egoism and ignorance, to go beyond the body and mind, to transcend suffering and have peace.

Yoga asana practice helps us to develop awareness and acceptance towards the reality that is not necessarily the way that we would like it to be. Being aware of all the impermanent changes in the physical body and the state of the mind, and allow all the changes to be what they are – accepting the impermanent condition of the physical body and the state of the mind as it is, from moment to moment. We learn to be undetermined by what our body can do and can’t do in the present moment. We learn to let go of pre-judgment that based on our past experiences. We let go of attachment and identification with the thinking and beliefs in the mind. We stop judging, comparing and expecting. We let go of attachment and expectation towards the existence and function of the body and mind. We let go of craving and aversion, passionate worldly desires, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, fear, worry, feelings of hurt, guilt, pride and arrogance. It’s letting go of the ego, and be free from ignorance and suffering that derived from egoism.

Though I didn’t have the rest of the money for paying the total expenses for me to go to India after I paid the 300 USD deposit payment for the course, the money came to me naturally when I needed it, without me worrying for it. But of course I had to work harder and work more to earn the money. It didn’t just fall down from the sky and land in front of me.

Yoga is not for sale, but the fees are important to support and allow other people to have the opportunity to come to the Ashram to learn about yoga. There are basic expenses that keep the Ashram running, to provide classes, food and accommodation for the students, and also to provide living and travel expenses, food and lodging for the many live-in ashram care takers as well. I never see teaching yoga as a job, or a business, but the fees coming from the students is supporting our living and enable us to have the time and space to perform our own practice, besides paying the cost to run the yoga retreats and maintaining the yoga studio. This allows us to continue doing what we are doing and allows some other people to come to us. It doesn’t matter if one day there will be nobody want to come to us to learn yoga from us. That is up to the universe. I didn’t have any intention to teach yoga, or to own a yoga centre, or to recruit yoga students.

Om shanti.

READ ON…

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My life stories – Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until one of my partner’s shoes came off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to be happy, and I am happy.

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

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

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

READ ON…

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.

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