When I go out to meet the light, the shadow of my body follows me, but the shadow of my spirit precedes me and leads the way to an unknown place
- Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Messenger or Charlatan?

Today as I was walking on the street in Bangsar on my way to restring my tennis racket, a tall hefty man walked across my path. I was scarcely aware of his presence until he called to me after we passed each other: "You have a very lucky face, and don't worry April 2010 is a very lucky month for you!". I turned around and assessed the man, he had a pleasant confident air about him and he was well groomed and dressed. He pulled out a notepad and began jotting down some bits of information while introducing himself as an astrologer from India and producing a laminated business card. I didn't doubt the veracity of his statement, and my intuition told me to hear this man out. I thought back to the other 2 unplanned encounters with clairvoyants in my past, I thought to myself "it's about time I had another message".

He spoke a lot but I didn't quite capture all the details.

"You have a very, very lucky face", he looked at me more closely. "And you have a good heart". I was not impressed...

"2008, 2009 were not good for you." Yeah no kidding, wasn't there a global economic meltdown... "But don't worry, this April you will have 3 incidences of good fortune. PHS. Do you know what P.H.S is?" I shook my head. "Peace, Happiness and Success." He repeated again his message about April, he seemed completely certain that April was going to be a big important month for me. He then tore a piece of paper and rolled it into a ball and put it in my hand. He then asked me to name a flower, and pick a single digit number and say my age. I did so, and when I unrolled the paper all the information was in it.

He asked me for a donation and I gave him $10. He pleaded for more for his teacher whose picture of an old yogi he showed me. I told him no, I felt comfortable with that amount and I asked him for his number and name. He wrote down on a paper Surej - Yogi and a phone number, I told him that I would call him in May if his divination came true. I was impressed that the whole time he carried an air of absolute confidence.

Surej didn't walk away immediately. "Do you mind sir if I tell you your weakness? You have one weakness." I tensed a little, was he going to start chastising me for my love affairs? Instead he said, "You have good intentions but in a circle of friends when you are all seated you are too frank with your friends. That is why sometimes when you are in need of help, your friends are not coming to help." I nodded in agreement, this is true of me and I have known this. He could not have surmised this from the little I had said in this short time. Less reason to doubt this man.

After he left I felt elated but with each step my mind began to reason and cast it's shadow of doubt: This man must be a complete sham, likely he walks around town all day long telling random people April is their month and then impresses them with his parlor trick of foretelling the flower, single digit number and age. But then again, I do hold dear that April will bring glad tidings for me because I would be in between work contracts, traveling overseas and I had resolved to earnestly pursue opportunities abroad. Furthermore, as my journal entries attest since I began the Bright Path, that the years of 2008 and 2009 have been very challenging for me.

In the end I concluded that if this man is a fraudster then I must admire the artistry of the intelligent force that guided and timed his steps to cross paths with me on that day to bring me this message of goodwill that reinforces my expectations of the month to come. Then it becomes possible that this man is both a Messenger and a Charlatan.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooking Healthy

I have three days off this weekend in honor of Prophet Mohammed's birthday. I'm supposed to be on my way to Hong Kong and California but I've postponed my trip at the request of my boss. I thought it over and decided that it would benefit me to remain 3 more weeks so I could meet with an associate who will be making a business trip from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur for a project I am involved with. I'm interested in the prospect of working in Sydney in the future.

I'm using these 3 days to do something I haven't done in years, something physiologically and gastronomically satisfying - cooking. What's compelled me to do so is the burden on my immune system that I feel lately from living in Kuala Lumpur. This burden is twofold - diet and air quality.

Being a bachelor with many pursuits I do not savor the idea of surrendering my precious time to be in the kitchen cooking for myself, so I eat out all the time. I do my best to make conscious choices and often hear the comment that I'm a healthy eater but I disagree, how can anyone that eats out all the time be a healthy eater when he is constantly ingesting the preservatives, additives, and excessive salt and sugar, that are all companion to commercially prepared cuisine. Also, there is the poor quality of the cheaper produce - less fresh and simply lower in nutritional content being sourced from topsoil depleted by over harvesting of single crops.

Lately my body has been in resistance to the food I ingest from restaurants. At the end of the lackluster meal my body would feel heavy instead of energized and light. I think this heightened sensitivity is due to an overall increased awareness of my body, mind and spirit the past couple of years.

And the air quality has been responsible for a constant feeling of being on the verge of a flu outbreak. It is not my imagination, one just has to look at the air or stick your tongue out to perceive the difference. I have friends that live in Singapore who complain about ailments either skin or respiratory in nature that befall them the moment they arrive in KL, these begin to dissipate immediately when returning home.

Yesterday I bought a vegetarian cookbook. I wanted to cook healthy dishes not typically found on menus and the obvious choice was vegetarian. I chose to make a stir-fry on egg noodles. I wanted something simple and quick; I wasn't going to attempt to outdo the kitchen staff at the Ritz Carlton on my first reacquaintance with the culinary arts. I also resolved to use as many organic ingredients as possible. The recipe called for baby corn, baby carrots, button mushrooms. The sauce was new to me, it called for a large orange and dry sherry to go with the standard oyster sauce. Coriander leaves to garnish.

It took me a long while in two supermarkets - one organic and the other non; but eventually I gathered all the ingredients. I wanted to quit about ten times. And the dish was cooked in a reasonable amount of time, typically in the past my cooking ventures involved at least half a day.

I invited my friend K to come and sample my cuisine, she had studied culinary arts and I figured her immune system would also appreciate a healthy meal. She came with 5 kinds of Haagen Daz ice cream to counterbalance the purity of the meal. She only heaped a small amount in her plate citing that she was still full from an earlier meal.

There is a sense of curiosity and dread that grips the cook on the verge of the first mouthful. I had only a vague idea of what this dish should taste like. To my relief and delight my senses applauded my creation from the first bite, it was my finest dish ever though one of the simplest. My body felt like it was dancing with joy by the end of the meal, it seemed long overdue and starved for proper nutrition that it could embrace wholeheartedly.

Oh, and K had seconds without complaint.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Visiting my Tai Chi Master

I am leaving for the US on Friday, I intend to be gone for 3 weeks. Enroute I will be transit one night in Shenzhen at my parents place. I've never visited their home in Shenzhen, I'm curious to see this rapidly growing city that was just a fishing village a mere 40 years ago but now the fourth largest in China . But I am most looking forward to seeing my old dear friends again and then spending some time in Dallas visiting my younger brother whose wedding I missed in Fiji last year. I promised him I would make a trip to see him to make up for it. I'm also hoping to get some camping and mountaineering in around California or Utah with my good friend T whom I shall stay with in LA.

I asked my Tai Chi master, Master Lim, to allow me a private session to offset me falling behind in class for the 3 weeks that I'll be gone. His response was to visit each other's home first before he would decide.

Last night, he arrived at my apartment with 5 students/friends of mine from class and puttered about briefly. I showed him my collection of books and music . He gave a cursory perusal since he didn't understand the texts. Then I offered him some Oolong tea and he elected to make it himself with his usual elaborate ritual improvised with bowls and cups. After he finished his tea we all adjourned for dinner at a restaurant in his neighborhood and then we adjourned yet again to his flat.

When I walked through the door I was struck by how spartan his small humble abode was. The odor of old paper and a hint of incense hung in the air, instead of living room furniture his apartment contained shelves of books all in Chinese. In one section there were crates and display cases packed with clay teapots and tea cups. The walls were adorned with swords and photo portraits of 3 generations of masters. And by the window was an old wooden table with 4 stools for serving tea.

He gave me a tour of the place. In the kitchen there were no appliances, just more books. In the bed room, more books and a desk. In the back room... more books and another desk but this one was meant for his Chinese medical consultation practice. The man was also a certified Sifu i.e. traditional Chinese healer. He explained that his books were all related to Chinese history, philosophical, martial arts, medicinal or tea. I peered at one of the bindings since there were some English words on it, it said "24 leg attack styles of the Shao Lin". Impressive... His martial arts books were mainly sectioned according to Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Wu Shu or Shaolin fighting styles. I was told that Master Lim reads until 3 am on most nights, it was obvious that he had started from a young age. Despite not completing elementary school this man was extremely well informed and an expert on various Chinese subjects.

He invited the 5 of us to sit around his tea table and for the next hour and a half we chatted while he served 3 types of premium tea, some decades old. He was meticulous in his technique and criticized me for my boorish mannerisms- the way I held the cup, the speed that I drank the tea, for leaning toward the pot to smell the tea instead of bringing the pot to my nose. I was appreciative of the criticisims for I knew there were subtle lessons to be gained here. The grip of my hand on the tea cup was wasteful of energy and I could relate to how a tense grip impaired the quality of my shot in tennis.

Then he invited us to sit on the floor around a small TV and the slipped a DVD into the player. It was a martial arts exhibition that about 20 of his students performed at 'The Confucius School' in the city. As they stood in a semi-circular composition each man would step forth with a sort of bow and perform an dazzling display of a martial art routine with a particular sharp/blunt weapon for a few minutes and then retreat back to his place. One guy actually walked forward with a full-sized trident and another guy with a hand fan. Yes,... you can defeat a man with a paper hand-fan. But the guy that stole the show was the one that walked forward and placed a wooden bench on the stage. Was he going to break the bench? Sit on it? No, he picked it up and wielded it as a weapon for a few minutes doing his own routine of attacks and parries. Apparently in one of the thousand of books around me contained a martial art routine for defeating your opponent with a bench. It must come in handy when some jerk tries to steal your table in a noodle shop.

I left full of admiration for this small, composed unassuming man, not so much for his ability to sneak up on me and kill me with my own slipper before I knew it but more for the relentless passion which he pursued his interests and hobbies; and how in turn they had shaped him into a Master in so many areas of his life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rearranging furniture

Last night I had a rough time sleeping because my mind would not stop rearranging the furniture in my friend's apartment. I normally sleep easily, I Ascend and then sleep comes quickly. But recently my father just quit his job at his company. He is now retired and yesterday I heard my parents speaking about money like it was life giving blood, a precious commodity in order to qualify oneself as alive. I was unsettled by what seemed to me as an attitude of scarcity.

With the end of expatriation, my parents are now leaving China and moving back to Malaysia. Though they didn't request it, I knew it would be time for me to move to a new place. I was quite content to do so, I've been missing a place of my own self-expression for a long time. The obvious choice was my best friend's apartment since he would be moving out around that time to a bigger home with the arrival of his third child.

There is also the shock that the center that I'm learning Tai Chi and yoga at is closing down at the end of this week. I've grown quite accustomed to that place, and I've made quite a few friendships with the instructors there. It's been a sort of refuge to interrupt the frenetic daily routine between work and home,... well really whenever it is raining and I cannot play tennis. Now I will seek to find a new place to learn yoga and Tai Chi. I intend to continue somehow with the Tai Chi instructor - Master Lee.

That residual seed of fear from the conversation earlier in the day must have taken root, and fertilized by the disconcerting news of the Tai Chi and yoga center closing down sprouted into a tree in my mind as I lay in bed . All the signs of an upheaval had me struggling with the sails of my ship, a storm had caught me and I suppose I was clamoring for landfall somewhere. No matter how much I tried to setup the furniture in my friend's apartment, it just never seemed to have the proper arrangement for me.

I wonder if this means it is not my destiny to be living at my friend's apartment.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese New Year, happy for some

Today is the eve of both Valentines Day and Chinese New Year. This year the astrology is such for these events coincide. There are four days off beginning today, the city has wound down as many in the city have returned to their places of origin as the Chinese families reunite. It is a sort of Thanksgiving but for the Chinese. It is nice to observe the family outings at this time of year, you will tend to see multiple generations of a family mingling; the elders will be out and about and often dressed in traditional attire, being assisted by the younger family members.

I have opted to stay in the city and cherish the more sedentary pace, the downtempo is a rare treasure. And this year my older brother, sister-in-law and mother are here in KL. My younger brother is too far to make the journey and my father's plans to be here were thwarted by last minute work demands. This year once again I shall not romance anyone on this important day for lovers, and this is not for any want of willing companions. Instead I have decided to take my mother out for Valentine's Day for the first time. I hate to see my mother alone for this day.

Actually, what inspires this post is a friend and co-worker of mine whom I had written about 4 months ago when her father passed away. Today I received news from her that on the eve of the celebration of the New Year, her sister was found dead in her room. In customary fashion, I grasped for words of consolation and wisdom but I this time the words felt meaningless and I felt somewhat hollow. What's the point of repeating something said before, and does she really need to hear the same remarks from someone so removed from the frequency and magnitude of her losses. For me it was a reminder that there is suffering that cannot be avoided and you can't even assume that it would be kind enough to wait for you to get on your feet from the first knock down. Dare I offer the reason for another loss was that she hadn't yet learned to cherish her loved ones, it would seem a slap in the face. Nay, there is no enlightenment nor any reasoning that lightens the burden of this bereavement.

This is what I text messaged her as she drove through tears back to her hometown, battling the brutal traffic delays. I do not attempt to beguile you of your bereavement but I offer these words for these are the words I speak from my heart and I would want to hear spoken when the day comes that my own loved one is wrenched from this lifetime:
"You can't make sense of the timings of these events. It's really fucked up from our point of view to go through this amount of grief but when we leave this life we shall know that truly our tears fall only for the living. And when we see how temporal each life is in the scheme of eternity we will smile. And when we find that what we had lost was always there we will rejoice.

Go through your pain with your family for now, I promise you will smile again. Hugs"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Helping Out

Two days ago I received in the mail a letter package from WorldVision, it was sent in response to a form I filled out to sponsor a child. I was allowed to choose the country from a shortlist and I chose Myanmar because it seemed exotic and there are a lot of Burmese foreign workers here in Malaysia. I see them daily in the grounds around my apartment complex toiling away as cleaners, they work hard and do their job well. In many other parts of the city they wait on tables.

I had seen this child sponsorship on TV years before but never acted on it before because of my skepticism. It is a convenient excuse to avoid responsibility. What if not all the money makes it to the child,... what if it's a scam and there are people profiting from it. And so, my conscience was shielded by the hardened shell of my judgments and opinions. I came across the idea again because of the girl sitting next to me at work, she had for years now been sponsoring a child and she had even visited the child a few years back. WorldVision will actually on occasion make such arrangements so the sponsor can see the difference their funds are making to the child and community overall.

In the package I am given a photo of the 3 year old girl, her name is Zin Zin. A leaflet describing her circumstance, a child sponsorship guidebook, and a brochure of gifts that you can purchase for the underprivileged. From the short synopsis I see that she lives in Kawthaung township near the Thai border. It is a transit area into Thailand and problems such as HIV and trafficking are prevalent. Pop. 92,000. Zin Zin herself is of satisfactory health, has no handicaps, and her chores are to run errands for her parents whom she lives with. Her father is an odd job worker and she has one brother.

Looking inside the gift brochure you see these are not your usual token gifts, instead for a small price these gifts bear significant impact on the standard of living; for instance, a possible package for Vietnam is a "Farmer's Starter Kit" - 5 chicks, 5 ducklings and 1 Kg of vegetable seeds. If the recipient is in Azerbaijan then you can purchase an eye surgery kit to equip surgeons with the tools they need and so on.

I've been gleefully announcing to my friends that I'm now a Father. It really throws them off and this may be the only occasion that I can get away with that white lie so I'm using it almost every opportunity. I'm already having visions of Zin Zin and I meeting one day, it is nice knowing that somewhere on this planet you exist in a child's mind as a hero of sorts. And more importantly, this child will grow up remembering the standing goodness of a person that contributed to her welfare for nothing in return other than his own healing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Que Es Verdad?

What if...

All our suffering were based on lies. Lies that began in the Garden of Eden thousands of years ago. Lies that were told by the Prince of Lies living in the Tree of Knowledge. For on that day, we learned to judge ourselves and in doing so, we separated ourselves from God. We lost sight of the goodness, and began to believe in lies that began to live us as robots for in believing the lies we were too afraid to live authentically as the rest of Nature, we put on our images and were ashamed of our nakedness. Lies that perpetuate themselves through millenia, passed on from generation to generation breeding conflict. But the conflict is not between Good and Evil as we have been told to believe, but rather between Truth and what is not Truth. And what is not Truth? Almost every one of the thousands of thoughts that we unconcsiously create in our minds every day and reinforce as our personal truth by the filters of our perceptions, the ones that lead us to feel anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, shame, guilt... unceasingly. When the mind is peaceful, when the thinking stops, we experience the Truth,... we are no longer blinded in that moment.

What did Jesus mean by "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you"? Why did he say "The Truth shall set you Free?"...

We are born in Truth, we only know of it as an infant. When we die, we return to it. In between is the 'Dream of Society', the Voice of Knowledge that rooted itself in us sprouting like a tree in the Garden of Eden. The source of ALL human conflict.

I have realized that we can return to experience Truth. There are 'doorways' whereby the veil woven thick by the incessant stream of unconscious thinking is moved aside, certain music creates this for me. I recognize that my very first posting on The Bright Path alluded to this, but I didn't know the term to connect it with. Somehow a bigger Self could breathe in those moments, but they were as they are still for me... fleeting. Since that first post I have grown in awareness and thus lessons of life were recognized - insults became insights. And I am grateful for the stewardship of 'Masters' through their books through which I now have labels now to attach as pointers to that which words failed me.

But I have also recognized over the months of more or less concerted quest, that we can move our point of reference 'closer' to Truth. In have experience of two, we can choose the tradition of the ancient Toltecs... to simply not believe (see The Complete Idiots Guide to Toltec Wisdom). Simply refuse to believe every bit of suffering, what is the underlying belief that is leading to my suffering, it is called 'Stalking the Mind'. Once I recognize the thought and maybe even the point in time that this belief was born, I can then choose to disbelieve it. What happens with continual rejection is that the mind gradually is tamed, it no longer runs you like a wild horse, instead you are now holding the reins. As it shuts up more, like a child whose tantrum is being ignored, there are fewer thoughts, greater periods of silent lucidity.

Another way,... is to replace the downward thought with an uplifting i.e. Truthful thought. If you find it hard to disbelieve the lies, then why not replace the thoughts with an Upward thought. And this refers to Ascension. In this tradition, you Ascend with eyes closed, and think the Upward thoughts, there are only a handful of them and they resonate within to dissolve the stress lodged in us born of the lies we accumulate of ourselves and others over the years. They resonate this way to free us because these select thoughts ARE statements of Truth. This is done both with eyes closed and your eyes open during the normal waking activites of the day.

Another way,... is through isolation and rigorous discipline such as that practiced by many monastic traditions over the years. And there are mantras for this, and other techniques to quieten the thoughts. I have no experience of this and cannot comment on it. The rigorous path of the Yogi is also deemed another way of increasing awareness; and though I practice yoga regularly I do not study it in depth since such teachers are scarce here.

As the Truth of our nature emerges as reality born of experience, and this Truth can only ever be known through experience not passed on as thoughts or known through reading about it and forming beliefs, hence the need for parables to describe it by a certain famous Master 2000 years ago... then we discover that we have always been so much more than we hold ourselves to be, that enormous potential lies untapped yet waiting to be accessed by the new awareness. The Toltecs used the term 'Mastery of Intent' as the process to use this abundance that resides in us and perform miracles,... well, what WE would consider miracles today. Until this is experienced without intervention of the mind, it remains a distant theory and idealistic construct.

In the emerging frontiers of science Consciousness is now being given recognition it has long deserved for its role in the creative process of our physical reality. There are experiments that have been done with astounding results (see The Intention Experiment). It behooves us then to make a dedicated effort to journey inward and clean up the junk i.e. the self-defeating, disempowering hidden beliefs that undermine who we truly are and keep us enslaved and easily influenced. This is a task on my path, I have asked to learn and life has taught me in return. There is so much more to discover.