My life stories – Part 12 (A new beginning)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All is impermanent.

Be happy.

Learn how to free the mind from all kinds of disturbs and hurts

When a mind/person feels disturbed, unhappy, angered, disappointed or hurt by something, usually the impulsive reaction will be expecting some kind of sympathy or empathy from other minds/people, and looking forward to be comforted, loved, looked after, acknowledged, or supported by other minds/people. And most minds/people would also think and believe that that is how people should react towards other people’s state of minds that are disturbed, unhappy, angry, disappointed or hurt, to be there to be listening to what they think is disturbing their minds and comforting these suffering minds/people by showing them love, care, acknowledgement and support, to be sharing and lessening their ‘unhappiness’ or ‘suffering’, in terms of generating a ‘loving kindness’ society/community. There’s nothing wrong with that and it might give the troubled/disturbed/unhappy/angry/disappointed/hurt minds certain degrees of relieve, to feel better, but it doesn’t help them to be free from the root cause of the suffering from disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts. Instead, most probably it might be unintentionally empowering or feeding the attachment, clinging, craving or expectation in people’s mind.

Just like giving sugary fizzy drinks to the unhappy kids might make them feel happy, but they would crave for more sugary drinks to make them feel happy. As once the craving is being gratified, it would only intensify the craving. And if their craving is not being gratified, they would be more unhappy. That’s not freedom at all.

There’s clinging, craving and expectation towards receiving sympathy, empathy, love, affection, care, acknowledgement, or support from others, even though there’s nothing wrong with receiving sympathy, empathy, love, affection, care, acknowledgement, or support from others, as this is what most worldly minds/people believe and expect the society/community/family/relationship/friendship should be, but the mind is not free. If for some reasons, the mind doesn’t get what it thinks and believes it deserves to be getting from others, it will be more disturbed/unhappy/angry/disappointed/hurt and would do things that would hurt itself and/or others. This is not freedom.

As well as most egoistic minds would want to feel that they are needed by others to feel good and meaningful about themselves and their life existence, that they are capable to give and show love, care, affection, sympathy, empathy, acknowledgment and support to others who ‘need’ them. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, just that these minds would feel bad or meaningless if for some reasons they think that they are not needed by some others, or when they think that other people do not appreciate what they give. This is not freedom.

Only those who can go beyond worldly thinking and belief can penetrate the real meaning of this teaching and practice. It doesn’t mean that everyone in the society will become ‘cold’, ‘heartless’ or ‘lack of sympathy/empathy’, but the minds are free from clinging, craving or expectation towards receiving the ‘deserving’ love, care, affection, sympathy, empathy, acknowledgment and support from others to feel loved, cared, worthy, comforted, acknowledged or supported, to feel good and meaningful, by knowing what is going on in the mind and be free from ignorance and egoism, and thus, be free from all kinds of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts. One doesn’t need anyone to be there to be listening to one’s ‘troubles’, ‘unhappiness’ or ‘hurts’, to be ‘comforted’, as there’s no trouble, unhappiness or hurt existing in this liberated mind. One also can give and show sympathy, empathy, love, care and support to others without the attachment, identification, craving, intention or expectation in order to attain good and meaningful feelings towards oneself or one’s life existence. That is true freedom and compassion.

Yoga practice such like cleansing technique, breathing exercises, yoga asana exercises, chanting, prayer, or concentration practice, can also give the effects of relieving certain degrees of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment or hurts in the minds, but again, it doesn’t stop the mind from continuing be disturbed, unhappy, angry, disappointed, or hurt by something that they don’t like, don’t want and don’t agree with, that they think is bad, wrong, disturbing, unhappy, frustrating, disappointing, or hurtful, if the mind is not free from ignorance, egoism and impurities.

Those who truly want to learn and practice yoga, it’s not about doing some forms of yoga practice to be getting some conditional and impermanent physical/mental/emotional benefits or getting some momentary relief from what they think is painful suffering, but they learn how to free the mind from the root cause of all kinds of suffering, of disturbs, unhappiness, anger, disappointment, or hurts.

Naturally, the society will have more physical/mental/emotional healthy minds/people, where the minds/people realized unconditional love from within, know how to look after themselves and love others unconditionally, being free from clinging, craving, aversion or expectation.

But not many minds/people would understand and appreciate the greatness of this freedom. Most minds/people believe in and want a society/community/family/relationship/friendship that builds on ‘needing each other’ all the time to feel love, good, happy and meaningful, and to feel less lonely or to escape loneliness. That’s how people are being taken advantage by others who have selfish intention being in a relationship or friendship. Even in the world of yoga, some yoga teachers or so called ‘gurus’ take advantage of the yoga students for their vulnerability when the students longing or expecting to be receiving comfort, sympathy, empathy, kindness, love, care, affection, acknowledgment, or supports from the yoga teachers or ‘gurus’.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they think or don’t think, believe or disbelieve, want and don’t want. People don’t have to practice yoga of freeing the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, but just want to do some yoga practice regularly and engaging in social/community activities, to attain some momentary physical/mental/emotional benefits or relief, to attain some kinds of conditional and impermanent good, positive, loving, happy and meaningful feelings.

Work diligently to free the mind from ignorance, egoism and impurities, if one wants to attain or realize this freedom.

Self-impose imaginary imprisonment of fear

what the mind categorizes asMost minds appear to be calmed and relaxed when they are being in a space or environment that is within their comfort zone and familiarity. But once they are out of their comfort zone and have to confront with a space or environment that is unknown or unfamiliar to them, and dealing with the condition and situation that is not the way that they like it to be, all kinds of fear will over-powering the mind in the form of imagination, anticipation, speculation and projection. They are no longer calmed or relaxed being outside of their comfort zone.

Yoga practice isn’t limited to be performing some yoga practice in a calming, relaxing and hassle-free environment, that make the mind feels safe, convenient, good and comfortable, but, yoga practitioners should learn how to confront with condition and situation that is not necessarily the way that they would like it to be, that is outside their comfort zone, and still be able to be calmed and relaxed outside their comfort zone.

Most minds feel good, calmed and relaxed when they attend a retreat in a ‘safe’, ‘hassle-free’, ‘protected’, ‘convenient’ and ‘enjoyable’ environment. But then the minds will not progress further in yoga, if they prefer not to step outside their comfort zone, and didn’t learn how to be ‘okay’ under challenging condition and situation that is outside their comfort zone and familiarity.

Fear towards the unknown, unfamiliarity and what the mind categorizes as ‘unsafe’ environment is indeed a self-impose imaginary imprisonment from the mind to itself, even when there’s nothing ‘fearful’, ‘bad’, or ‘dangerous’ really happening in the present moment.

Even though the minds might feel calmed and relaxed performing the yoga practice and be able to perform the yoga practice nicely and effortlessly, and feel ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ being in a space within their comfort zone and under a ‘safe’ environment, but the minds are not free at all, as the minds won’t be calmed and relaxed anymore once it’s out of their comfort zone having to deal with condition and situation that is not necessarily the way that they like it to be.

Those who are free from being over-powered by fear of all kinds of fearful imagination, they deal with whatever needs to be deal with that is existing in the present moment, calmly. The mind is free from all kinds of ‘fearful’ imagination, anticipation, speculation and projection towards something that isn’t existing in the present moment.

People who really want to practice yoga and know what is yoga, must allow themselves to step outside their comfort zone, to confront with condition and situation that they don’t feel comfortable with, that they aren’t familiar with, and learn to be ‘okay’ outside their comfort zone and familiarity. Though there’s nothing wrong if people reluctant to step outside their comfort zone. Be happy.

Yoga retreat?

‘Retreat’ is a period of special time and space of solitude for us to be with ourselves, to retreat from worldly social interactive activities, to allow the mind to have the opportunity to move away from restlessness and its usual habits, to turn the outgoing mind inwards for introspection, for self-inquiry, to know our-Self, even if there are other people being in the same retreat.

Real (spiritual) retreats are not designed for socializing or mingling. It’s an opportunity for us to practice solitude. As solitude is an important element in conquest of mind or fear. Some people’s mind are fear of being with people, they want to be alone to feel safe. While some people’s mind are fear of being alone, they want to be surrounded by some other people all the time. But both of them also is about fear. Fear derives from ignorance and attachment. There’s no peace in ourselves, always thinking that something bad is going to happen on us, or somebody is going to hurt us, either when we are alone, or when we are being with some other people. We generate so much tension into the environment.

If we are afraid of being with ourselves even just for a few days, and ‘have to’ cling onto other people in the retreat all the time, please be considerate that we still have to respect other people in the retreat centre who purposely coming here to have their own time and space for themselves for some personal spiritual practice. As we are disturbing other people’s precious time and space to be with themselves being in the retreat centre.

But, we cannot expect everyone to be understanding this simple and basic principle about ‘retreat’. As there are many other yoga retreats in the world that are not really about silence the mind for self-inquiry, but more like commercialized luxury pleasurable enjoyment and socializing kind of yoga holidays.

In the end, it’s about compassion. Being compassionate towards those who are influenced by ignorance and whose mind is out of their own control, being over-powered by fear. Spiritual practice are here for beings who have fear, to learn to deal with fear, and to let go of fear. But, most of us refuse to confront with the fear in us, and choose to avoid what we are fear of.

Most important is being compassionate towards ourselves by letting go of fear.

Om shanti.

my yoga asana practice part 1

This is a sample of my daily yoga asana practice to share with those who want to know what I usually do for my personal asana practice.

Asana practice is an important practice in the path of Yoga to help us in purifying and controlling the mind, to render the mind calm and being at the present, as well as rendering the body strong and flexible preparing for meditation and to perform selfless service.

During the asana practice we learn to let go of judgment, comparison and expectation towards ourselves and other people. We learn to accept the present moment now as it is. We learn to accept ourselves as we are. We learn to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, not necessary the way that we want it to be or the way that we think it should be.

It will not be the same in every session of asana practice (even if we perform the same asana routine). We learn about impermanence and allow impermanence to happen and accept the impermanence as it is. We learn to accept the ever-changing condition of the body as it is. We learn to let go of craving and aversion. We learn to let go of the ego.

When the body needs rest from the asana practice, I don’t do any asana practice for that time being. But yoga practice is always there continuously, in every moment, never ceased.

Here the asana poses were being held for a shorter period of time during the video recording and the resting time in between the asana poses was being edited for suitable viewing.

In my daily personal practice, it takes about 2 and a half hours to 3 hours to complete one session of asana practice. The asana poses are being held as long as my body feels like holding comfortably. The sun salutation is repeated minimum 10-20 rounds up to as many rounds as my body feels like doing. The resting time or relaxation in between the exercises or the asana poses is at least 15-30 seconds up to a few minutes depending on what type of exercises or poses and also depending on how my body feels after the exercise or the asana pose. The final relaxation is as long as my body wants to be completely at rest.

Om shanti.