The yoga class

Teaching yoga or practicing yoga is nothing to do with money, ‘fees’, or ‘donation’. No one can sell or buy yoga, or peace, or compassion, or wisdom, or liberation from suffering with any amount of money, or ‘fees’, or ‘donation’.

Meanwhile, running ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga courses’ that involve a lot of expenses/maintenance/labour/management/coordination requires money in the form of ‘fees’ or ‘donation’ for it to be happening. It doesn’t necessarily mean that if the money received is in the form of ‘donation’, it means ‘non-commercialized yoga’ or ‘authentic yoga’, or if the money received is in the form of ‘fees’, it means ‘commercialized yoga’ or ‘inauthentic yoga’. Such a simple understanding, but due to ignorance, many minds/people do not understand this.

Yoga classes/courses based on ‘donation’ without requesting a specific fees are not necessarily pure and authentic, or it’s being free from any form of ‘corruptions’. While yoga classes/courses required specific amount of fees are not necessarily impure, inauthentic, or corrupted.

People would perceive ‘yoga classes’ based on ‘donation’ or ‘small amount of fees’ that they think is ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable’ as ‘authentic yoga’ conducted by ‘compassionate’ yoga teachers, while ‘yoga classes’ required ‘certain amount of fees’ that they think is ‘inappropriate’ or ‘unacceptable’ as ‘inauthentic yoga’ conducted by ‘money minded’ yoga teachers.

Yoga students come to the yoga teacher to study yoga and seek guidance from the teacher and they give some fees/money to the teacher to support the teacher’s living is nothing to do with ‘commercial’ or ‘inauthenticity’. It’s like grown up working children give their parents some money regularly to support their parents’ living, there’s nothing wrong and nothing commercial. It’s a form of love, kindness, generosity, sharing, gratitude and gratefulness, even though the parents bring up the children out of love, without expecting anything in return. If the children grown up and are working, but only want to keep all that they earn for themselves, for they own living enjoyments and social expenses, and they refuse to support their own parents’ living, or those who are grown up but are lazy to work or spent all their earned money on non-essential things and enjoyments, couldn’t support their own living and need to depend on other people’s charity for living, not to say to support their parents’ living, then that is something ‘absurd’.

Many people who only want to pay very little ‘fees’ to attend ‘yoga classes’ or who prefer to attend ‘free yoga classes based on donation’ would think and expect that ‘yoga teachers’ should all be beggars to beg for donation, food, clothing and shelter on the street while giving ‘yoga classes’ for free or on donation basis. This type of ‘yoga classes’ is most probably unwittingly empowering ‘ignorance’ and supporting ‘corruption’, supporting people who would spend money generously on their personal worldly indulgence/enjoyment/social life activities, but would think and believe that it’s ‘wrong’ or ‘inappropriate’ to pay certain amount of fees to attend ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga courses’.

There are some people who already have a good financial support for their living, where they don’t need to depend on receiving any ‘fees’ or ‘donation’ from teaching or running ‘yoga classes’ as a form of charity coming from them to other people. That’s very good, but not many people are having such financial-free living condition. Many people need to somehow ‘make a living’ to support themselves and also maybe some other people under their care. If the basic living necessity is not available, people need to be spending time and energy to ‘make a living’ in order to ‘survive’, not to say to have the spare money, time and energy to ‘organize’ charity yoga classes for people who want to enjoy cheap or free yoga classes.

Meanwhile, there are those who think and believe that they are ‘highly spiritual beings’, would perceive receiving ‘money’ in the form of ‘fees’ for conducting ‘yoga classes’ or ‘yoga courses’ as a form of ‘evilness’, ‘wrongfulness’, ‘impurity’, ‘corruption’, ‘greed’, ‘down fall’, or ‘non-spiritual’, that ‘yoga classes’ or ‘spiritual activities’ shouldn’t be ‘tainted’ by ‘money’ or ‘fees’. They don’t mind receiving ‘donations’ from anyone, but they don’t want to get involved in ‘money matters’ personally. They don’t want to be physically touching any money or keeping any money under their names, or keeping any money close to their body or their ‘spiritual practice space’, but they need some other people who look after them to handle the money in the form of ‘donation’ that support their living and all kind of expenses.

Many good people who try to be good and do good and work very hard to make an honest living in this world are not exempted from the suffering of poverty or hunger/thirst and exploitation by others. People want to enjoy cheap goods, enjoyments, conveniences and services, and that’s how all kinds of exploitation started in this world of commercialism.

People who are busy in life need the existence of the convenience and service of shops/eateries, which rely on the people who devote their time, effort, attention and money into running shops/eateries to provide the convenience and service to the people while taking the risk of running business. The existence of shops/eateries also need to depend on other people who work or run business that provide everything from farming and harvesting to transportation and providing all kinds of shop, kitchen and dining equipment, that allow the shops to put goods on their shelves for people to buy and allow the eateries to put meals on the table for the people to consume. Even though it’s a business or work involved with money transactions, but still it’s a form of ‘convenience and service’ that benefits many people. If nobody interested in taking the risk of running a business and devoting their time, energy and money into starting a shop/eatery, or if nobody is involving in farming/harvesting/transportation/providing shop, kitchen and dining equipment, or food production is not available due to any natural/technical cause, people won’t be able to enjoy such convenience and service. It doesn’t mean that any form of ‘business’ involved with money transaction is ‘non-giving to the society’ or ‘non-compassionate’.

Compassionate actions are not necessarily have to be free from any involvement with ‘money’. Even when there are some good and kind people want to help other unfortunate people in this world, they also need to gather money in the form of donation/contribution/funding from somewhere in order to help other people. Selfless actions are also not necessarily have to be free from the involvement of ‘money’, it’s about non-attachment and non-identification towards one’s actions and the fruit of the actions. It doesn’t mean that when people are working and getting some monthly salary for living, or people who run business and getting some yearly profits for living, that their action of contributing their time, energy, attention, knowledge, skill or talent into their work or business is nothing to do with ‘selfless service’. If everyone doesn’t work or run any business, this society that builds on social economy that provides all kind of conveniences and services will collapse.

Any kinds of work, or duty and responsibility towards oneself and others, or business, can turn into a form of selfless service even when there are involvement of ‘money’, if people know what is performing actions without egoism. Volunteering work doesn’t necessarily means ‘selfless service’ when it’s done with attachment and identification. Non-expectation also doesn’t mean that ‘not receiving anything in return’. As all actions will bring the fruit of actions as it is, whether people have expectation, or not. Those who are free from expectation, they allow the fruit of actions to be what it is, it’s not about ‘I don’t want any fruit of actions after I performed actions’. That is ignorant understanding influenced by egoism of ‘I want to give without getting anything in return as it’s not selfless service anymore if I am getting something in return’.

People don’t really need to attend any ‘yoga classes’, or ‘yoga courses’, or ‘yoga retreats’ to be learning and practicing yoga, or to be peaceful, compassionate, wise, forgiving and be able to let go what the world categorize as ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, or ‘hurtful’. People can be attending many yoga classes and yoga courses regularly for many years, or teaching yoga for a long time, but still, the mind is not free from ignorance, egoism, impurities and restlessness, still being determined by worldly idea, thinking, belief and practice, and are under the influence of the desire of craving and aversion towards dualities and qualities of names and forms very much, as the mind still couldn’t go beyond the mind perception of the duality of ‘good and bad’, ‘right and wrong’, ‘positive and negative’ and ‘happiness and unhappiness, and hence, unwittingly chasing after what the mind categorizes as ‘goodness’, ‘rightfulness’, ‘positiveness’ and ‘happiness’, while rejecting what the mind categorizes as ‘badness’, ‘wrongfulness’, negativeness’ and ‘unhappiness’. The mind couldn’t see things as they are, or allow everything to be what they are, as they are. That’s nothing wrong, as the mind misunderstood the teaching of yoga about ‘positive thinking’. Many yoga enthusiasts, including ‘yoga teachers’, think and believe that it’s about influencing/making/changing everything to become ‘positive’ or ‘good’. But actually it’s merely about when the mind is over-powered by ‘negative thinking’, then the mind can cultivate positive thinking to counter negative thinking, and when the mind is free from negative thinking, there’s no need of positive thinking, as everything is just what they are, neither positive nor negative, neither good nor bad.

Although there’s nothing wrong with sincerely looking for a teacher to learn and practice yoga, to seek guidance of how to free the mind from ignorance and its by-products of egoism, impurities and restlessness – the root cause of suffering.

It’s everyone’s freedom for what they want to think, believe, behave, act and react.

Contemplate on this, and be free.

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The importance of renouncing worldly life for those who want to realize yoga

Renunciation is an important part of yoga sadhana for those who are aware of the consequences of ignorance and egoism in oneself, who sincerely want to realize yoga to be free from ignorance and suffering. Those who just want to do some yoga exercise to gain some benefits to look good and feel good about oneself, who enjoy being passionate towards worldly life and social activities, who think ignorance doesn’t exist in them, they don’t have to follow the path of renunciation.

After learning and practicing yoga for some years having developed a certain degrees of non-attachment and correct understanding of the teachings and practice of yoga, yoga practitioners who want to realize yoga will have to eventually renounce the worldly life and retreat into solitude and seclusion for a prolonged period of time.

This is not about going for a short term of a few days or few weeks of yoga retreat holidays where people indulge in yoga related activities that they enjoy doing, that make people feel good and meaningful, spending time being with people who are like-minded, connecting and interacting with people who share the same ideas and values, while being able to stay connected and interacting with family and friends and the world, but it’s about renouncing the worldly life of all sorts of relationships with people or animals or things and social activities, and retreating into solitude and seclusion for at least 5 – 6 years. Allow everyone and everything to be what they are, as they are, without interference with anyone or anything expecting/wishing them to be the way that we think they should be.

Renunciation from worldly life or retreating into solitude and seclusion for a prolonged period of time might be perceived by many people, including those who think they love yoga and are practicing yoga, as ‘running away from life or the world’, or ‘being selfish and uncaring’ towards family, friends and the society, as most minds are being conditioned by worldly thinking and belief of a strong attachment and identification towards certain values of life consist of family and friends, social interactions and worldly affairs.

Our worldly life consists of all relationships and things and activities is what we think is what we are, and we take all these names and forms to be the highest value/meaning of life existence (family and friends, culture and spirituality or religion, what we do or don’t do, what we have or don’t have, what we achieve and don’t achieve, and what we contribute or don’t contribute to the society). For many people, it’s ‘wrong’, ‘bad’, ‘inappropriate’, ‘inhuman’, ‘selfish’ and ‘crazy’ to not connecting or interacting with family and friends, or the society. And it’s okay. Everyone has the freedom for how they perceive and understand and think about everything.

But this is also why people perceive/experience all kinds of suffering in this worldly life existence. And it’s okay, because people rather choose to go through suffering than to find out how to be free from suffering.

We might not like suffering and we don’t want suffering or what we think and believe as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’, but we are not aware of the root cause of all suffering, and we don’t like or disagree with the teaching/practice that will lead us to realize the cause of suffering and how to be free from suffering, due to deep rooted ignorance and egoism.

At one moment, we feel good, happy, meaningful and contented when things are the way that we like it to be or how we think it should be, when our wishes and desires are being gratified. At another moment, we feel hurt, annoyed, frustrated, agitated, disappointed, dissatisfied, upset, unhappy, angry, hating, fear and worry when things are not the way that we like it to be or how we think it should be, when our wishes and desires are not being gratified. And we tell ourselves and others that this is life, this is human nature, this is normal for all human beings. But then, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we constantly do and say things that would cause damage and disharmony in oneself and in the world, out of hurt, annoyance, frustration, agitation, disappointment, dissatisfaction, upset, unhappiness, anger, hatred, animosity, fear and worry.

Whether we like and agree with it, or not, the entire practice of yoga is about the annihilation of egoism of attachment, identification and the desires of craving and aversion, to free the mind from impurities, to be free from ignorance, to transcend suffering.

Although one has been doing yoga practice for a long time and has heard about selflessness, but one cannot realize yoga (selflessness), if one doesn’t work on freeing the mind from the egoistic attachment and identification with the worldly life existence as ‘I’, ‘This is who and what I am’, ‘This is my body’, ‘This is my mind’, ‘This is my thinking/belief/culture/religion/ethnicity’, ‘This is my life’, ‘This is my family’, ‘These are my children’, ‘These are my friends’, ‘These are my brothers and sisters’, ‘This is where I belonged’, ‘This is my country’, and ‘This is my world’. All these names and forms are just what they are, they are impermanent, they don’t belong to ‘I’, and they are not ‘I’.

The ego constantly straining the body and the mind expecting the body and mind to be like this or like that, to be able to do this or that, to be able to achieve what ‘I’ like and what ‘I’ want. ‘I’ want my body and my mind to be like this, ‘I’ don’t like them to be like that. ‘I’ want my body and my mind to be able to do this and achieve that. And we think we love our body and mind, but we don’t. We just want the body and the mind to gratify all my desires or wishes of what I like and what I want.

When one realized yoga or selflessness, there’s no separateness of ‘I’ and what the mind perceives as ‘my family’, ‘my friends’, ‘my brothers and sisters’, and so on. There’s no ‘We are one big family’, ‘We are all human beings’, or ‘We are connected together’. There’s no ‘we’.

Connection exists only when there is still the perception of separateness of different individuals, that two or more separate objects/particles/souls/beings connect together. Connection doesn’t exist in oneness, or non-separateness. When there is connection, there is disconnection. It is still within the perception of duality. And the main teaching and practice of yoga is to realize non-duality, or oneness, or non-separateness. One doesn’t need to stay connected with any other beings to feel that we are connected to each other.

Those who really want to know what is yoga, they will realize it when the mind experiences complete silence being in solitude and seclusion, being cut off from the worldly life of all relationships with everyone and everything, and worldly objects and activities that the mind loves and familiars with, for a prolonged period of time.

We like to say we love yoga and we think we have been practicing yoga for a long time, and we feel satisfied, confident, good and happy when our body becomes stronger and more flexible and is able to do many of the yoga asana poses that we want to be able to do, but then we would give ourselves many ‘reasonable’ excuses about why we don’t need or don’t want to renounce worldly life to cut off all the tendencies of all kinds of attachment, clinging, longing and craving.

Some yoga practitioners would have no difficulty to perform their daily routine of yoga asana and pranayama practice regularly, and gaining great improvement in physical health and fitness level, strength and flexibility and skill to perform many of the yoga asana poses, and attaining momentary good and happy feelings, sense of self-worth, confidence and meaningfulness in the mind due to the effects and achievements from performing the yoga practice regularly, being able to live the life that they want, but not many are interested in observing complete silence in solitude and seclusion for a prolonged period of time, to be isolated from people and things that they love and the worldly life and activities that they are familiar with. The ego needs to feel loved and be connected with the world, to feel good, happy, confident, or meaningful.

Some people will have no difficulty to go into a silent retreat centre for a few weeks, and stop connecting and interacting with other people and stop doing the activities that they like to do for that few weeks, as they know this is just a very short term restriction, but when the mind has to go through a prolonged period of time being cut off from people and things and activities that they love and like, there will be pain/suffering arise in the mind.

Meanwhile, some people might think that they have developed a good foundation of non-attachment and detachment, because they can let go certain things in life, but most probably that is because the mind has found some other new attachment to cling onto, such like new friends, or new relationships, or ‘new toys’ to play with, or new activities to do in life.

While some people love to go for weeks and months of ‘yoga retreat’, but know that most of the yoga retreats in the world are not about silencing the mind, but it is about living with a community that are like-minded, doing activities and interacting with other people who share the similar ideas and values, which makes the ego feels comfortable, good, happy and meaningful, but this doesn’t help the mind to be free from ignorance and egoism.

Only when the mind can live in solitude and seclusion for a prolonged period of time, when the mind no longer needs to attach onto any beings or objects or activities to feel loved and connected, to feel good, happy, confident and meaningful about itself and life existence and the world, then this being can live and mix freely in the society, love everyone and everything unconditionally, care for humanity and benefit the world efficiently. There’s no loneliness, boredom, longing, clinging, craving, dissatisfaction, incompleteness, emptiness, void, meaninglessness, or fear in this mind.

“Do good to others, help others, give love and care to others, because it is meaningful and it makes us feel good and happy for being able to do good and give help, love and care to others.” – This is not the teaching of yoga at all. This is the ego needs to attach onto certain qualities of names and forms to feel good and happy and meaningful about itself and life existence. This is empowering the ego. It’s not freedom. The one who is free from the ego, simply just do good, just give help, love and care to others, NOT because ‘I’ want to or need to feel good and happy and meaningful about myself and my life for being able to do good, to give help, love and care to others.

The minds that are free from ignorance and egoism remain equanimous, peaceful and kind towards all beings without discrimination under any difficult conditions, situations and circumstances. These minds don’t need to renounce worldly life to retreat into solitude and seclusion, as they are free from egoism of attachment, identification, desires and impurities, and they are undisturbed/undetermined by all the perceptions of good and bad qualities of names and forms, and hence being free from all kinds of disturbs or suffering. These minds don’t need to display any yoga asana poses through the physical body to show that they are practicing yoga.

Be free.

What your mind thinks and believes is not important, so as what other minds think and believe…

In the worldly thinking and belief, especially in personal growth and empowerment, a person should have or develop a strong personal identity about ‘This is who you are’ and ‘Your thinking and belief, your background, your nationality, your gender, your religion, your family and friends and relatives, your social network, your dreams or aspirations, your profession, your achievements, all your actions and the result of your actions, are what make you who you are, and so, this is your unique personal identity and you should let the world know this is who you are. You should be proud of your thinking and belief, your actions and the result of your actions, and all those qualities that make you for being who you are. You are a very unique individual. You are very important and you deserve the best. You should do your best to make the world, or your family and friends, or your country, or your teachers, or other people to be proud of you and gain their respect towards you. You should defend your personal identity and the rights of your personal identity. You should not lose your personal identity.’

In yoga, what you think is your thinking and belief, your background, your nationality, your gender, your religion, your family and friends and relatives, your social network, your dreams or aspirations, your profession, your achievements, all your actions and the result of your actions, or whatever you think is your identity, are not who you are.

Be free from egoism, identification, and conditioned worldly ideas.

Yoga is the realization of selflessness beyond the function/modification of the mind and mind perception of qualities of names and forms. What your mind thinks and believes is truly not important, so as what other minds think and believe.

There’s no need to defend anything. There’s no fear of losing anything. There’s no need to gain respect for anything. There’s no need to be proud of anything.

Be free.

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 life stories – Part 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

We didn’t choose Langkawi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om shanti.

This video below was taken when we were in Koh Lipe