be free, be happy, be peaceful

May all find the teacher within to guide oneself towards unconditional love and peace

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The practice of Silence - Mauna

The observation of silence - Mauna, is not just limited to the restriction of speech but it’s also about reducing and restricting the senses inputs and stimulations of the mind. It is calming down the thought current and free the mind from restlessness. It is not merely practicing silence of speech, but also silence of the mind.

This will help to purify the mind to a deeper level.

It is like emptying and cleaning the rubbish bin. Stop putting in more rubbish and bringing out the existing rubbish from the bin and give it a good clean up. It is stop stimulating the mind and allow it to have a moment of stillness.

It is about changing the habit of the mind that likes to react towards all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses every moment. It is restricting the mind to react whenever it wants to react towards whatever it perceives.

This will lead our mind to stop reacting towards what it likes and dislikes, what it agrees and disagrees with, and allow the mind to develop inner qualities, such like patience, forbearance, non-attachment, letting go, tolerance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, acceptance, forgiveness, self-introspection and self-control over the thoughts, actions and speech. All these inner divine qualities will lead the mind to realize God consciousness or the universal consciousness - Selflessness and compassion.

It is not just about not talking.

By controlling the speech organ not to talk or speak whenever the mind wants to express itself through speech or verbal expression, it is actually controlling the mind from its egoistic habitual reaction towards all the objects of the senses or whatever it perceives through the body and mind.

It is about being the master of the mind and be "the one" in control of the mind, instead of being the slave of the impure egoistic mind activities and being over-powered by the impurities of the mind. It's about stop generating craving towards what the mind likes and agrees with, and stop generating aversion towards what the mind dislikes and disagrees with. Allowing the mind to be open towards all the perceptions of names and forms through the senses, being free from attachment or identification towards the perceiver and the perceived. Through this practice, the ego will be annihilated.

Beside stopping the mind from reacting towards the sense objects by refraining the mind to express itself through speech by observing non-talking, non-justification, non-arguing, non-interaction and non-communication with the world, and just stand as a witness or the observer witnessing or observing all the names and forms that are being perceived in the mind, we also refrain the mind from reacting or expressing through physical actions, body language and facial expression, during the practice of silence - Mauna.

It is a total restrain over the thoughts, actions and speech. The mind becomes silent.

The practice of reducing or purifying senses inputs – sights, sounds, smells, taste, sensations (touch) and thoughts, and stop generate craving and aversion towards all these names and forms, is observing Mauna. When we stop generate new reactions of craving and aversion towards all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses, the old accumulated tensions or karma that derived from past cravings and aversions, will appear to the surface of the mind to be purified, or to be letting go.

The practice of Mauna is a very efficient and important way for us to realize the Truth of ourselves and about suffering.

The practice includes but not limited to:-

- No verbal or written communication and interaction with other people.

- No eyes contact or body contact with other people. Not looking at other people nor take interest in other people’s affairs.

- No body language or facial expression to make any communication or interaction with other people.

- Reduce and limit the inputs (sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation and thoughts) and outputs (ideas, communications and interactions) of the mind. Such like not reading novels, magazines and newspaper, not watching movies and TV programs, not listening to music, not playing sports games, not writing, not doing intense physical activities, not sleeping on soft bed, not using perfumes or fragrances, and divert the mind to contemplate on Dharma only whenever the mind thinks of any worldly objects, and etc.

- Control and minimize the habit of self-talking in the mind (talking to ourself in the mind). The speech organ maybe not performing any talking verbally, but the mind continues to talk to itself in the mind. This is very common for many people. It shows that how restless the mind is, and it doesn't like to be in silence for a single moment, even though from the appearance the body is silent and stilled, not performing any speech and actions.

- Controlling sexual desire. Transform or channel the sexual energy for spiritual practice and spiritual realization.

- Conserve energy by limiting worldly mental, physical and speech activities, and use the energy for spiritual practice and to perform selfless service for ourselves and for other beings.

- Reduce wants and worldly desires and sensual enjoyments.

- Restricting the usual daily habits of the body and mind. Such like dependent on "taking" certain "substances" or "doing" certain "things" to feel good...

- Restricting the usual reactions of the body and mind towards all the names and forms. Such like when we hear something that we don't agree with, we would like to argue about it...

- By limiting and reducing verbal, physical and mental activities. This will stop any stimulations of the mind. Allowing the whirlpool of the restless mind to have the opportunity to "settle down". When the mind is pure and calm, we will be able to "see" the Truth of everything as it is, not being contaminated by the impurities and restlessness in our mind...

- Restrict the mind from trying to express itself at anytime through verbal speech, facial expression and body language/sign. Such like learn to observe anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, arrogance, anxiety, agitation, depression, fear and worry, and let them go without react towards any of these impurities...

- Observe the thoughts (thinking) and not identify nor associate with the thoughts.

- Make the outgoing mind turns inwards concentrating and resting in the chamber of the heart.

May all spiritual aspirants be determined to observe Mauna – Silence of thoughts, actions and speech for some period of time in the path of yoga and meditation for spiritual realization to know the Truth.

Note that this practice of silence is "possible" for those who really want to know how to transcend suffering. For people who never suffer, or haven't experience any suffering, or don't know what is suffering, and are not interested in transcending suffering, this practice is not possible for them. It's because this practice will generate some "discomforts" or "pain" or "suffering" in the body and the mind, due to we stop feeding the body and the mind with what it usually likes to think, do, say, see, hear, smell, taste, and touch... It is "not fun" but "miserable" for the mind that likes to chase after worldly sensual enjoyments...

We will see our mind's true behavior when we start to restrict the mind from getting what it usually gets in everyday life... We will notice that we are not actually "the person" whom we think what we are... All the anger and frustration kick in as the body and mind is being cut off from its usual addictions, activities, lifestyle and enjoyment, and when its craving is not being gratified...

We will find out that our own mind is not actually as "obedient" as what we thought it was. And we will become humble and stop judging and criticizing other people whom we think that they have a "bad" mind that is not as "good" as ours... It's because we will realize that our own mind is not any better than anyone else mind...

We thought that we are super nice and calm people, but not really...

We thought that we are patient and compassionate people, but not really...

We thought that we are loving and unselfish people, but not really...

When we stop giving the mind what it likes and wants...

And so, this confrontation with the "ugly dark side" of our own mind, is not a "good" thing for someone who is very proud and arrogant... But it is a very good thing for someone who is willing to give up pride and arrogance...

This is simply because we start to see the truth of our own mind when we practice Mauna for a period of time, and turn the outgoing mind inward for self-introspection...

When come to the point if we are able to perform all our actions and speech out of selflessness and compassion, without any attachment, selfish desire and expectation, when all our thoughts, actions and speech are pure, then even though we are performing some thinking, actions and speech, but it is not contradicting with the practice of silence at all... That is what the teachings talk about inaction in action...

Om shanti.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A message to a yoga student...

"I'm enjoying every paragraphs you have written, all of them are really nice and meaningful. How I hope I could let the universe to decide where should I be staying too.. I wanted to stay in Australia but then I am worried of both my parents.. So undecided... Everything is like left hanging in the air"

This was a message from one of my yoga student... And this is what I replied to her.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hi there,

It is very normal that we will be apart from our family and friends at some stage in our life.

When we love and care for someone, we don't have to be together in the same place or be together all the time, but appreciate each other when we are being together, and continue to care for each other when we are apart, but without worrying...

Worry doesn't bring any positive changes to anything, but will make us loose the concentration on where we are and what we are doing at the present moment. It doesn't benefit us and the other person whom we worry about.

When you start to accept that in this present moment now, you are being there and your parents are being here, physically you are apart from each other, but actually there is no separation at all between you and your parents. Space and time cannot separate you and the people that you love. Space or distance doesn't exist when you accept yourself being where you are and not thinking about why you are not being at some other places now?

Imagine that if you are here living in the same house with your parents, do you always be with your parents every moment all the time? No... You need to get out of the house and be in the office, or meet up with your friends, or go for a movie or shopping... Or your parents want to have their own space to do their own things. But will you start to worry about your parents when you are not with them during those time that you are not being together?

Most of the time for people who live in the same house, they don't really see each other very often... In fact they'll start to feel that they need a distance from the people who live together in the same house, or have some privacy without some other people around them.

Whether it is being close together touching each other, or being 1 foot away, or 1 Km away, or 100 Km away, or 10000 Km away from each other, it makes no difference when you truly love and care for somebody, but without want to possess the physical togetherness or want them to stay close to us all the time.

If your parents are going to be fine, why should you worry for them?

And if your parents are not going to be fine, then by worrying is not going to help anything. If you really want to see your parents, anytime you can just come home, let go of your job for a few days, for a few months, or a few years, if your parents are so important to you... Even if you are going to loose your job for seeing your parents, why not? If your parents are really that important to you... It is just an excuse if we think that we cannot see our parents because of "something" that stops us from doing that...

If you think that because of your job, you cannot come home to see your parents, it means that your parents are not as important as what you think they are to you. Your job is more important then.

Even if you come back to where your parents are, it is not necessary that you will be living in the same house or at the same neighbourhood. Should you be still worry for your parents then, just because you are not living together?

And if you are living together with your parents in the same house, are you going to stop worrying for them? Do you still worry for your parents if you going to leave them and do your own thing for a few hours, or for a few days, or for a few months?

And so, worrying is not about how far you are apart from each other, and it is not about how long you will be apart from each other. It is not about whether you are living together or not, or living in the same country or not?

It is not that being closer, it will be less worry. And being further apart, it will be more worry... It is not that you'll be apart for a short time, the worry is less, and if you'll be apart for a long time, the worry is more...

If somebody we love had passed away, we will miss them but we won't worry for them... If you will worry for somebody who had already passed away, then you will be worry for everything no matter where you are...

And so, why worry? Even if the people whom we love are still alive but are not well, being worry won't make them better... Worrying is meaningless... Wasting our energy and time but doesn't benefit anything.

It is about whether you want to worry (go ahead and start worrying, it's your freedom to worry) or let go of worrying (stop worrying, it's in your control to let go of worrying)...

Be happy wherever you are, you still can care for somebody who is very far apart from you physically but you are never separated from them in your heart...

Love connect you and the people you love. You are always "together" with the people you love... And you don't have to be with them to stay close together physically and seeing them all the time.

And if you really want to be with your parents, want to spend time with them while they are still healthy and alive, then you can just come back and be with them for as much as you want. It is all up to you.

Most of the time, we are just giving a lot of excuses to ourselves about we cannot do this or cannot do that because of "this" or "that"... And making ourselves feeling confuse about what we really want.

The best gift that we can give to our parents to show love and gratitude to them is by taking good care of ourselves and be peaceful and happy... So that our parents don't need to worry for us at all. And so, why do we want to worry our parents by worrying for them?

But if one day, our parents need us to be there for them, then there shall be no excuse at all that why we are not being there for them... Unless we had tried our best to be there but it didn't happen, then we have to forgive ourselves and let go...

Wish you all the best.

Om shanti.

Meng Foong

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

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...

(Updated November 2020)

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 storytelling, 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. It’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 in the way that they think it should be, thinking that other people are being rude. Meanwhile those who suffer from 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 break away from all these conditioned thinking and behavior.

Most people like to ask about other people’s past, whether it’s 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. There’s nothing wrong and it’s a common way of social interaction among human beings. Many of those who came for our yoga retreats also liked to ask about our past. And hence, I had started writing down some of our past life experiences based on what I can remember. For those who are truly interested to know about our stories from 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 learning and sharing is about. Being in silence without talking and interaction seems weird or wrong for some people. As they start to understand more about yoga and the practice, they will realize yoga is about silencing the modification of the mind and the best learning and sharing is to be found in the practice of silence.

Some people, including many of the yoga enthusiasts, would think that sharing yoga means getting involve in a yoga community, interacting with each other and doing 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, identification, and expectation, resting in unconditional love and peace, being free from impurities of passionate desires, craving, clinging, longing, aversion, anger, hatred, ill-will, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, feelings of hurt, 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 to oneself and others. If the conversation will bring unrest and disharmony to oneself and others, then it’s better don’t talk. Yoga retreat is a time and space for people to be retreating or moving away from the common worldly behavior and social activities 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.

There’s nothing wrong when people would like to know about our own personal practice, thinking that it’s how the students can learn the practice efficiently from their teachers’ direct experiences. 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, including our teachers’ practice and the result of their practice, as everyone has different temperament and characteristic, and different degrees of ignorance and understanding. 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, not necessarily the same path and practice being done under the same pace as the teachers. It also has nothing to do with the worldly thinking and belief or the good and bad condition and situation of the world. But more important, regardless of what kind of path and practice, it’s to have determination, perseverance, self-reliance and discipline, until the restless mind is rendered pure and quiet, 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, egoism and impurities from our mind. Hearing about other people’s life experiences and their personal yoga practice and achievement might can inspire us to practice yoga, but it doesn’t give us liberation from ignorance and egoism, unless we perform our own practice through our own effort 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 towards 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 from reading and hearing, is completely different from knowing the truth of things through self-realization, as knowing many things doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the truth of things.

Running the yoga retreats allowed us to come in contact with different types of people coming from different cultural, religious, social and educational backgrounds, who possess different qualities of name and form with different thinking and belief, 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 name and form to be who ‘I’ am. There’s so much tension exist in the minds that have strong attachment and identification with certain qualities of name and form coming from disagreement and resentment towards other qualities that one doesn’t like and doesn’t agree with, or doesn’t want to possess. Regardless of 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. There’s nothing wrong when people couldn’t accept other people’s thinking and behavior that are different from their own thinking and behavior, but they don’t have to be disturbed by something that they don’t understand, dislike and disagree with.

Yoga practice is here for those who are willingly to let go attachment and identification towards all kinds of conditional worldly thinking and belief, allowing the mind to be opened to inquire the truth of itself – knowing thyself, and be free from ignorance and the consequence of ignorance, which is the root cause of suffering. Suffering doesn’t exist upon the absence of ignorance.

One of the important inquiry in the teachings of yoga is knowing what love is and how to love.

If we don’t know what is love or how to love, we will only end up unwittingly and ceaselessly hurting ourselves and those whom we think we love very much, especially those in a relationship with us. It’s because we don’t love ourselves and we don’t love those whom we think we love. We don’t love anyone, not even ‘God’, we only love the desires of what we like and want.

We think and believe that we are hurt and disappointed by other people’s bad and hurtful behavior, but actually we are hurt and disappointed by the ignorance and egoism in ourselves, as the ego reacting towards something that it doesn’t like, doesn’t desire and disagree with. The ego feels hurt and disappointed because it’s not experiencing what it likes and wants, but it’s experiencing something that it doesn’t like and doesn’t want. It’s nothing to do with the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses of what we experience. The names and forms or experiences are just being what they are. They have no intention or quality to be good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong. The ego is hurt and disappointed by its desire and expectation towards all the names and forms or experiences have to be and not to be in certain way, but the names and forms or experiences are not being the way that the ego desires and expects them to be.

Upon realizing the truth of hurt and disappointment, ‘hurts’ and ‘disappointment’ cease existing. There’s no ‘hurt’ or ‘the victim of hurt’ that need to be healed.

x x x x x x x x x x

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

This was the most common question that everyone asked us when we were running yoga retreats on Langkawi Island for ten years. I am thankful for all the questions asked, as it ignited me to write about my life stories of From where I came from and how I came here.

We didn’t choose Langkawi.

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 a longish holiday 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 holiday there. So we booked our return flight tickets to go back to KL seventeen days later. Marc, my Irish 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, except 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 every day, snorkeling and collecting beautiful sea shells, and enjoying delicious Thai food on the island, we left Koh Lipe and came to Langkawi Island.

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 who were going 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 street of Pantai Cenang 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 full 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 town 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 tour 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 would 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 before the fuel went completely empty.

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 just 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 a complete different point of view about Langkawi. Langkawi wasn’t just Pantai Cenang as what we thought that it was. It has some other beautiful features – nature, waterfalls, rain forests, mountains, mangroves, rivers, nice beaches and slow paced lifestyle. Its economy depends mostly on tourism. It is a touristic place, but it could also be 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 book 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 of a wooden house near the beach with mountains and coconut trees around it. I always dreamt of living in a house close by the sea. And the house that I painted looked almost the same as the wooden house that we found in Langkawi later. We were thinking of moving to Malacca, 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 enough 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. If we couldn’t find one, it meant that Langkawi was not for us. It wasn’t so easy to find a house to rent in Pantai Cenang area and the rent was much higher than some other areas. It was a popular location for foreigners to rent a house for long stay.

Many of the houses in rather 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.

This time, we found a budget place to stay at 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 main street of Pantai Cenang. 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 the properties here on the island, except for some expensive free hold properties in town area where foreigners and non-Malay Malaysians can buy and own.

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 about our search and gave them our contact number.

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 thought we wouldn’t find a house to rent and be ready to forgo Langkawi. 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 met 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 ‘The 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 the rental was.

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 to Langkawi 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 arrive three months later because we need more time to stop all our existing 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. 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 towards 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 cum yoga studio in Pantai Cenang. It was monsoon season and it had been raining heavily all day and all night. 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 sitting 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.

As our retreats took off, 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 just for doing the yoga classes.

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. After that 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 head of the mosque 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 found it ridiculous, but we respect ‘the Law’. We still want to teach yoga to so many other people who would come here to learn and practice yoga. And so, we complied with the rules and regulations of the business license.

We had to spend 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 had to change the mosquito netting and the floor vinyl for the wooden house and repainting the house to make it more pleasant for the retreat guests. While for the other cement house, we needed to do a bigger renovation to make the house livable. The cement floor was not plastered smoothly and the wiring in the house was not compatible to safety standard. We hired different people to redo the cement floor, replace the old mosquito netting and install new wiring for the house. We also installed air conditioners for the kitchen, the bedroom and the office room. The houses were not perfect, but we weren’t too fussy about it.

In September 2014, for unavoidable reasons, we had to let go both the wooden house and the cement house. The government had big plan to build a highway across the village to ease the congestion at the main street of Pantai Cenang. We knew that it wouldn’t be suitable to run retreat at the wooden house anymore, as the highway would be very close to the house. On top of that, there’s some problem with the wooden house, and the cement house that we lived in would be taken back by our landlord as the house they were living in would be demolished to give way to the highway. We also found that the touristy Pantai Cenang area was no longer suitable to host our yoga retreats.

We started looking for another house to rent for us to live and run yoga retreats in August. After looking at a few houses away from Pantai Cenang, we found a house beside the paddy field in a village at Kedawang. It was closer to the airport. It was not perfect, as the rental was not as cheap as we would like it to be, and we needed to spend almost all of our savings to renovate the entire house to make it livable and suitable for running the retreats, but it was the only house that had a big hall and a big kitchen and dining area for hosting the yoga retreats and had a separate living area with two rooms for our own living. We also renovated one of the huge store room next to the yoga hall and turned it into an en-suite studio apartment to accommodate our retreat guests, as well as to accommodate Marc’s parents when they came to visit us. It also had a big compound where we made it into a beautiful garden and built a car porch.

I had to apply for the temporary building permit for this house to apply for a new business license. This time, it took more than six months for that to happen.

We lived and ran yoga retreats for a few more years in that house until end of 2019, where I decided to leave Langkawi for good and we moved to Penang Island for many reasons.

We were grateful for the past ten years living and running yoga retreats on Langkawi Island. We were so lucky that we moved out right before the pandemic lockdown, as we wouldn’t be able to run retreats even if we had stayed in Langkawi.

Not running any retreats during the pandemic lockdown enables me to focus on my own practice at home. We are also glad that my husband’s writing, editing and proofreading career has started to take off.

This was the story of why we had lived in Langkawi and taught yoga there.

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

x x x x x x x x x x

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...

x x x x x x x x x x


This video below was taken when we were in Koh Lipe

Monday, December 19, 2011

The importance of Mauna & Uparati - The practice of silence & renunciation from worldy activities

This practice of silence and renunciation from worldly activities is applicable for those who sincerely want to tread the path of entering into silence or attaining Samadhi - the ultimate freedom and real peace transcending the ego and the mind, transcending the perception of the world of names and forms, dualities and qualities, and be free from desires, greed, craving and aversion, and thus be free from ignorance and suffering. This practice will come naturally for those who already have the right discrimination about what is real and unreal. Naturally they will let go of chasing after of the unreal, and will know to appreciate and utilize the existence of this body and mind for what is real...

Any names and forms that is formed through combination of energy and elements, it is not real... It has a beginning and an end... It exists and will stop existing... It is conditioned by qualities of names and forms... It is impermanent and constantly changing... It is non-Self. There's no existence of 'I' in the names and forms to be in control of all these impermanent changes.

What is real, is beyond qualities, names and forms... And thus it doesn't has a beginning or ending. It doesn't exist or stop existing. It is attributeless, it is not conditioned by qualities of names and forms. It is not affected by impermanence and it doesn't change...

This practice of Mauna and Uparati is not just applicable and limited to the so called monks and nuns who leave the world to concentrate on their own Self-realization. The real renunciation is not conditioned by any names and forms, but it is happening in the mind, and it can be at anywhere and anytime, and in anyone...

People who know real renunciation can live in the midst of the world but will not be affected, nor influenced, nor determined, nor disturbed, nor conditioned by the world of names and forms... They are free from ignorance, egoism, anger, hatred, greed, desire, dissatisfaction, craving and aversion, anxiety, restlessness, fear and worry. Out of compassion and wisdom that they realize from Self-realization, they can perform so much works or actions to help the other beings to be free, to transcend the ego and the mind, ignorance and suffering... But without being affected by the fruit of their actions.

For people who really wish to attain success in the path of yoga and meditation, the practice of Mauna (silence) and Uparati (cessation from worldly activities) are very important practice to turn the outgoing tendency of the mind inward, in order to render the mind calm and be free from restlessness and unnecessary anxieties, cares and worries for Self-introspection or Self-inquiry.

The practice of Mauna and Uparati maybe seen as "anti-social" in the eyes of the worldly people, but it is a must if we really want to go deeper in the path of yoga and meditation to know the Truth of our existence and to attain real peace. Those whose minds are wild, incontrollable, restless and passionate are not yet ready to meditate, to contemplate upon the Truth... There is nothing wrong or bad about the mind being restless and passionate... Just keep practice purification of the mind and strengthening self-control...

That's why all the (serious) meditation retreats for people who live in the busy world to immerse themselves in meditation practice for purifying and calming the mind, and to contemplate on the Truth, they have two most important observations which are, to observe silence or Mauna (to stop any interactions and communications with the world verbally, mentally and physically) and to refrain from worldly or daily habitual activities throughout the entire retreat. This is to allow the mind to quiet down, to take a few moments of "rest"... Within that few moments of "rest", the mind is calm and quiet, be free from anxiety, restlessness, imaginations and speculations, and naturally, without any intention to know the Truth, the Truth will reveal itself...

Only a calm and pure mind can reflect upon the Truth without the influence of the ego, the thinking, impurities, judgments and expectations...

For people who really devote this life existence for Self-realization, and they know self-control, non-attachment and renunciation, they can live in the busy world, but being undisturbed, unaffected, uninfluenced, unconditioned, undetermined by the world, and practice meditation entering into silence. The world is always restless, but they are not influenced by the world. Their mind is at rest all the time... They are different from those who need to go to retreat centres repeatedly to have some sorts of "momentary" self-control, non-attachment and renunciation in the retreat centres, to find some moments of peace, but when come back out into the world, there is no self-control, nor non-attachment, nor renunciation, and there is no peace...

In the path of yoga (mind control), these two practices are unavoidable if we really want to know about this mind (the existence of "I" (the perceiver) and all the enjoyments and suffering (the perceived) that comes along with the existence of this "I"), and to be able to go beyond this mind and to transcend the ego, craving and aversion, and ignorance or impurities, as well as transcending all the qualities of names and forms (the state of duality that derives from the perception of names and forms).

Fear and worry, anger and hatred, greed and dissatisfaction, envy and jealousy, doubts and ignorance, craving and aversion, passionate desires, the attachments towards the body and mind, the attachments towards all the names and forms that are being perceived through this mind and body with the functions of the senses and sense organs, the wrong identification with the body and mind, the sensations, the feelings, the thinkings and the egoistic "I-ness" and "mine-ness"... - All these impurities "disconnect" us from our true nature, the eternal unconditional, attributeless wisdom, bliss and peace.

We think we are "this" or "that" with certain names and forms, behaviors, believes, religions, educations, cultures, habits, hobbies, talents, characteristics and personalities. We think we have something called "self-esteem" that is being determined by who we are and what we are, what we do and don't do, what we can do and cannot do, and what we judge ourselves and others. We think we need to have certain qualities to create or develop something what we name as "confidence" in us.

The truth is, once we know this mind and what is this ego, then all the so called "self-esteem" and "confidence", and all the other qualities of good and bad, happiness and suffering, names and forms that we use to judge ourselves and everyone and everything in this world, they all will disappear... They don't exist at all...

There is no "I"... There is no "self-esteem" or "confidence"... There is no need to have "self-esteem" or "confidence" to feel that we are "somebody" or to make us become "somebody"...

"Self-esteem" and "confidence" exist when we think we are this body and mind, and we are "somebody" with certain qualities, names and forms...

When we truly know our true Self, the existent of "I" with certain qualities, names and forms, will disappear... Our true Self is nameless and formless, beyond names and forms... There is no good and bad. There is no positive and negative. There is no happiness and suffering...

In order to know our true Self, not just from reading books written by enlightened beings, or having heard from past saints and sages, or from some existing teachers or Gurus telling us about "who we really are", we need to be able to observe the practice of Mauna and Uparati in some stage in our life... Just to take some "time off" from worldly activities and interactions... For the mind to have the opportunity to be free from restlessness, unnecessary cares and worries, to concentrate and focus inwardly for introspection, for self-inquiry, for self-realization, for experiencing the real inner peace, for knowing the Truth of existence and suffering...

Note that this real inner peace is not the momentary peaceful good feeling that comes from doing some meditation, asana and pranayama practice, or by not encountering any discomforts, pain and illnesses, or by doing the things that we like to do, or by getting the things that we want, where by this type of peaceful good feeling is conditioning and limited by the qualities of names and forms, and it is impermanent, it will change and disappear...

The real inner peace is unconditional, unlimited, undisturbed and unchanging... It is always there. Never increase nor decrease... Never exist nor doest it stop existing...

This renunciation is not selfishness as some people might think that it is... This is definitely not running away from our duties and responsibilities... It's because the biggest duty and responsibility in this existence of "I", is to know who am "I"... If we don't know "who we really are", we will have no peace, no wisdom, no compassion... And we cannot help other people to have peace, wisdom and compassion, if we ourselves are not peaceful, not wise, and not compassionate... If we want to help the world, we need to help ourselves first...

When this mind is restless, wild and uncontrollable, it makes us think that we are experiencing all the enjoyments and suffering in this world of names and forms with qualities of good and bad, pleasantness and unpleasantness...

When the mind is pure and be free from all sorts of impurities and ignorance, we'll know that there is "nobody" there to experience "anything"... The world is just being what it is being "projected" from this mind... It is the mind projecting the "world"... When the mind stops, the world disappears... When the mind ceased existing, there is no "world"...

Impure mind projects impure world of names and forms... Positive mind projects positive world... Negative mind projects negative world... Fearful mind projects fearful world... Angry and hating mind projects angry and hating world... Compassionate mind projects compassionate world... Calm mind projects calm world... Pure mind projects pure world... No mind, no world...

The world is just being what it is. It is neither good nor bad, neither pure nor impure, neither positive nor negative, neither a happy place nor a suffering place.

Yoga and meditation is to "annihilate" the mind, to "eliminate" the ego, the thought waves or the mind activities...

It doesn't matter if some worldly passionate minds think that this practice of Mauna and Uparati is impossible, contradictory, unnecessary and means no more "fun" in life... Everyone has the freedom to choose what to do in life and what way of living... Be happy.

The meanings of life and ways of living are vary in everybody...

The Buddha and all the other saints and sages chose to live a simple, self-controlled, desire-less and non-attachment way of life and find that entering into silence and attaining real peace is the meaning of life... And some other people choose some other forms of lifestyle and find that by attaining another form of excitement, enjoyment and happiness as the meaning of life... There's nothing wrong... Be happy.

Contemplate on this teaching and be free...

Om shanti.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Be free from anger and hatred...

When compassion exists, there's no anger and hatred...

If anger and hatred exist, there's no compassion...

There's no peace...

If we "think" we are good beings and are hating other beings that are not as "good" as we are, then obviously compassion is not there, even if we are "good"...

No matter how much we want to show our love to the "good things" that we love, and think that we are good beings and are being "compassionate", but at the same time, if we are hating other beings who are damaging the "good things" that we love, then what we thought was "compassion" in us is not really compassion at all...

Maybe we are good and want to promote "goodness", but it's not necessarily that we are being compassionate, if there is anger and hatred in us towards something that what we think is "bad" and "evil"...

There's no peace if anger and hatred exist in us even if we are "good" and love being "good"...

We try to, and want to be compassionate, but where is compassion when we are over-powered by anger and hatred?

We try to, and want to be in peace, but how can there be peace, when anger and hatred is there...

When anger and hatred disappear, compassion is there, peace is there...

Peace is never separated from compassion...

They exist together, they "come" together and they "leave" together...

Compassion and peace don't belong to "good" nor "evil"...

Compassion and peace are beyond good and evil...

It's beyond all the qualities and dualities of names and forms...


May all be in peace...

Be free from anger and hatred...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Malaysia Yoga Retreats in Langkawi 2012

Here are some upcoming Yoga Now Malaysia yoga retreats in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2012.

Please be informed that all retreats request is subject to availability.

Jan 1 – 7
Jan 9 – 13
Jan 16 – 20
Jan 21 – 24
Jan 25 – 31

Feb 6 – 9
Feb 11 – 16
Feb 20 – 24 (Beginners Yoga Retreat)
Feb 26 – 29

Apr 11 – 18
Apr 23 – 26

May 3 – 10
May 13 – 20
May 21 – 24

June 2 – 9 (Yoga retreat in the French Alps)

Aug 13 – 16
Aug 23 – 30

Sept 3 – 10
Sept 12 – 15

Sept 17 – 24

Sept 27 – 30

Oct 3 – 6
Oct 26 – 31

Nov 14 – 17
Nov 19 – 22

* Any dates other than these dates can be arranged to suit your holiday best. Please contact us for further details and booking.

You may start your retreat on the date that suit you best (subject to availability) and for minimum 4 days 3 nights up to 14 days 13 nights.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My life stories - Part 7

My life stories - Part 7
Stories from my past memories - childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now...

(Updated November 2020)

Though my mother had passed away many years ago, my father still missed her very much. He felt guilty for my mother had passed away in the hospital, alone, without any of us being with her at that moment. He regretted deeply and blamed himself for not being there for my mother when she took her last breath. He strongly believed that my mother might have something to say to him before she died. But then and forever, he would never know what my mother wanted to say to him before she died.

My mother was paralyzed during the last two and a half years of her life. She needed special care and attention from my father and my sister to help her in everything from feeding herself to going to the toilet, and bringing her to the hospital and traditional Chinese acupuncture centre for check-up and receiving treatment for a few times every week.

Not long after my mother’s death, my father was paralyzed too and had to lie in bed most of the time. The only wish he had, was waiting for my mother to appear in his dream. Every day and night he just wanted to sleep and sleep, hoping that my mother would show up in his dream and talk to him. But he didn’t get to see her. Every time when I visited him, he cried while telling me that my mother didn’t show up in his dream. In great disappointment, he asked me why he couldn’t see my mother in his dream. Another thing that he kept blaming himself is for being impatient and shouted at my mother when she needed his care and support.

It wasn’t easy to look after a paralyzed person twenty four hours a day. Everyone became impatient, exhausted and frustrated. My mother had no choice but to depend on my father and my sister to be her hands and legs for everything. It was very hard for a person like my mother who used to be very independent and physically strong, but suddenly she lost all her mobility and freedom to do even the simplest thing. It wasn’t easy for the person who needed help and the person who helped.

I can never complain about how my father, my sister and her two daughters for being impatient and shouted at my mother frequently when they lost their patience being exhausted from taking care of a paralyzed person. Everyone was tired and frustrated. I can understand that. The person who was sick was suffering. The people who cared for the sick person were suffering too.

I felt compassion for my mother for being paralyzed because nobody would want to be in such condition, being helpless and losing one’s strength and mobility. I sympathized with my father, my sister and her daughters, for being trapped in a situation which nobody would like to be in. Nobody would enjoy spending many hours looking after a paralyzed person who needed so much personal care and attention. I commiserated with my two elder brothers who blamed themselves and feeling bad and guilty for not being able to help out financially. I felt sorry for myself for not being able to be there for my parents all the time because I had to be at somewhere else making a living to provide financial support for the entire family.

And then, my father was also having the same difficult condition as my mother had.

Because of the deep sadness from missing my mother, my father refused to get better. He didn’t want to go for physiotherapy or receive any kind of treatment. He gave up living from the moment he regained consciousness and realized he had lost his mobility. It’s more than ten years he had been paralyzed and he passed away on the 30th of December 2017.

My eldest brother, who had also passed away on the 30th of June 2018, was looking after my father for many years. He would bring my father to sit up on the wheelchair for eating and showering, but my father couldn’t stay in a sitting position for too long. In the beginning, my brother brought my father out of the house with his car, to eat out and to get some fresh air and looking around at the outside world. But then my father became very weak and had to lie down most of the time because his body would be in pain for sitting too long. Since then, he seldom got out from the house for many years, except when my brother sent him for routine check-ups in the hospital once every three months.

My father was feeling unwell in the morning the day that he got paralyzed. He was helping my sister to move some heavy things when he felt sudden unusual pain in his arm. My sister brought him to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told my sister that my father had to stay back in the hospital until late afternoon for observation and running some tests. My sister went back home to look after her daughters and she would go back to the hospital to pick him up later in the afternoon. During the check-up, a nurse asked him to sit up on the bed to perform some physical movements. Somehow he lost his balance and fell onto the floor from the bed with his head hit the floor first. He lost consciousness and they sent him to the Emergency Unit. He went into a coma. They informed my sister and told her that my father went into a coma and was sent to the ICU. There was nothing they could do, they said. Immediately my sister went back to the hospital while informing everyone in the family. My father regained consciousness many hours later, but half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor explained that there were three blood clots in his head that caused the paralysis. We didn’t know whether the blood clots were caused by the fall, or they had already existed before the fall. We couldn’t undo anything, even if it was somebody’s negligence and responsibility for what had happened to him.

The staff at the hospital didn’t mention anything about why he had been sent to the ICU. It was my father who told us later about what had happened to him on that day.

My sister thought of getting some compensation money by suing the hospital and the nurse. I told my sister that it was needless to sue anyone. It would do more harm to my father than to benefit him, as it would be a very long and stressful process for my father to go through if this went into a court case. I also believed that the nurse didn’t have intention for my father to fall down from the bed. Nobody intentionally wanted this to happen. The nurse might have felt very bad for this incident. Moreover, there was no other witness that could support whatever my father told us about what had happened to him that day, and my father’s memories were a bit confused after he suffered from paralysis. Even if we successfully sued the hospital or the nurse and got some compensation many years later, it still wouldn’t change the fact that my father was paralyzed and wouldn’t get any better. We should forgive and let go. One day this nurse might become a great nurse or a great person learning from this incident. We didn’t want to ruin somebody’s life with the possibility for becoming a great person. Someone’s life was already ruined and couldn’t be undone. Everyone makes some mistakes at some points in life. We didn’t want the nurse to be unhappy and have no peace for the rest of his life. Even if it was really the nurse’s negligence or responsibility for my father’s unfortunate condition, we would like him to know that we had pardoned him. It was an accident.

I have been supporting my family financially since I was a teenager. My second elder brother has been suffering from asthma since he was a baby. He couldn’t do much physical activities and didn’t have a permanent job to support his own living. In the past, he would need to borrow money from me from time to time to have food on the table. My sister was in great debt with many different banks, relatives and friends, and needed to look after her own family with two daughters and three grandchildren from two separate broken families. My eldest brother couldn’t work because he had been looking after my father twenty four hours a day. Therefore I had to support my father and my eldest brother financially.

Though my eldest brother loved his wife very much, they had to live separately for all these years because in the past she had to live with her family to look after her father who was very ill for some time before he died, and then, she had to take care of her old mother too. They could only see each other once or twice a month as they were living more than 120 km away from one another. It’s a sad and unfortunate life story of our family. But my brother never complained. He took good care of my father out of love. I am glad that my father had such wonderful son to look after him, and I’m always thankful to my brother for sacrificing so much for our family.

I needed to be able to look after myself so that I can look after my family. I never worry or regret. Worrying and regretting won’t change anything. It wouldn’t take away my father’s suffering or make my family’s difficult condition to become better. Instead, I used my entire energy to practice and teach yoga to help myself and others, to be free from ignorance and suffering, and have love and peace in us while living in the world of impermanence and uncertainty. My family also needed help. But nobody can help another if people don’t want to help themselves.

More than twenty three years ago, my parents were living with me before they moved out to live with my sister. After my late brother-in-law passed away in a tragic work accident, my sister had moved to Senawang where she found a job as an administrative clerk near where she lived. Senawang is a small industrial town with plenty greenery about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. She always wanted to live in a house close to the countryside where she could see the mountains and the big blue sky from her house.

Because of her two young daughters were studying in schools near my house in Old Klang Road, she didn’t bring her daughters to live with her. If she brought her daughters with her, she would have to pay someone to look after the children when she’s at work. Her monthly salary wasn’t much. She couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. She also had to pay back a lot of debts little by little every month. So she left her two daughters with us – my parents and I, to look after them. If she had some money left, she would give a few hundred Ringgit to my parents for her daughters’ daily living expenses.

My sister is very different from me. All I want is a simple, quiet life. She wants to make a lot of money. She wants to have big house, big car and enjoy life. She wanted to invest in property, so she bought a house and a shop lot. She wanted to invest in life insurance, so she bought eight life insurance policies at one time. She wanted to go for holidays staying in nice hotel pampering herself once in a while. And she would use her many different credit cards to pay for everything that she wanted – house installments, car installments, insurance premiums, holidays, petrol, grocery shopping, dining, and lots of bills. She didn’t realize that her ambitions were too many and too big, and she ended up accumulating more and more debts. But my sister isn’t a bad person.

She is a very kind and friendly person. She won’t have any bad intentions for anybody. She is a person with great patience and wouldn’t get angry under any circumstances, except when she was too tired from looking after my mother, she lost her patience and shouted at my mother a few times. But I know she would feel very bad afterwards, as she would never want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. She wanted to provide my parents with a better living condition. She wanted to give her daughters the best that she could give. All she wanted was to have a better quality of life. It’s totally nothing wrong with all her ambitions, but life was so hard on her all the time.

She was a member of the Red Crescent Movement and had helped many people everywhere while she was still in school. She continued to help many people after she finished school. She lost her own handbag many times, when she tried to help people who were injured in car accidents. She is a very good friend to many people. She was very intelligent and had very good results in school exams. She was one of the last batch students who received Malaysian general education in English medium. She reads and writes and speaks good English. She is a bookworm. She used to sing a lot and played a guitar when she was younger. She was a happy and carefree person.

But, all these good and positive qualities don’t guarantee that she wouldn’t be getting into financial problems.

Her elder daughter was a problem child. We couldn’t blame her. She had a very unpleasant toddler-hood before her father passed away when she was four years old. She had been frequently shouted at and canned by her father since she was just a few months old. One time, he slapped her for crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well causing her mouth tilted to one side when she talked. It wasn’t a bad thing for her and her baby sister who was five months old when their father died in the work accident.

Somehow she liked to tell lies and had been stealing money since she was just a little girl. One day, I found out that my one and only fifty Ringgit note had been missing from my purse. I used to count how much money I had every day and knew exactly how many notes and coins in my purse, as I didn’t have much money left for myself after giving most of my money to my family. And I knew for sure that I had one piece of fifty Ringgit note in my purse, but it had disappeared.

I was very upset. I was very sure that it must be her who had taken it, as it wasn’t the first time she took money without asking. I couldn’t control my anger. I was different from my sister. I would get angry and wasn’t a nice person at all. I felt really upset that we had been taking care of her and her little sister, but that was what she repaid us. At that stage, I was very ignorant and unhappy. I was very angry with the difficult financial situation in my family and didn’t have the wisdom and compassion to control my anger and my behavior. My mind was over-powered by ignorance and unhappiness.

I got really, really angry. I shouted at her madly. I told her that I was going to call the police to send her to jail. She was just a nine year old little girl at that time. I realized later in life that I was too harsh on her. I had to forgive myself as I couldn’t undo what I had done which I shouldn’t.

In the beginning, she kept shaking her head and denied that she had stolen the money.

She was very famous for her stubbornness. One time, her school teacher punished her for something that she did at school. The teacher gave her a stroke of caning on her palm. Other children would have cried in pain, pull their hand away and asked for pardon. But she didn’t retreat her hand, she didn’t cry and didn’t apologize. The teacher became more furious and gave her a few more strokes and hit harder and harder each time. She still wouldn’t retreat her hand and wouldn’t cry. The teacher gave another few more strokes until her palm started to bleed. Then the teacher stopped. She still didn’t cry.

She came home with the injured palm, swollen and bleeding. My parents found out what had happened to her, and went to the school to complain to the school principal. Immediately after that day, the teacher was sent to another school to teach. The entire school knew about this. And she became famous for her stubbornness.

After a few times of questioning with me shouting at her like a mad person, she went out in silence. A few minutes later, she came back with some money in a plastic bag. She already spent some of the fifty Ringgit. She kept the remaining money in the plastic bag and hid it under one of the flower pots down stairs.

I was really disappointed. Immediately I called my sister. I told her that she must came right away to take her daughter back with her to Senawang. I didn’t want her to live with us anymore. I was such cold-hearted, uncompassionate and unforgiving. About one and a half hours later, my sister came. She said she needed some time to arrange her daughter to go to a school in Senawang. I said to her, I could wait for another few days or a few weeks, as long as I didn’t want her daughter to live with us anymore. I didn’t mind that her younger daughter to continue to stay with us and I didn’t mind looking after her.

My parents were very upset. They loved me very much. They knew that I worked very hard to provide financial support for the family. They didn’t want me to be unhappy. They also loved their grandchildren very much. They couldn’t bear the pain being separated from one of their grandchildren. They sympathized with my sister that she had to look after her daughter on her own while she also needed to work. They sympathized with their granddaughter that she wouldn’t get as much love and attention as she could get from them and also be separated from her young sister, if she would have to live with my sister. And so, my parents made a very hard decision. My father decided to move to Senawang to live with my sister to take care of their elder granddaughter. While my mother would live with me and take care of their younger granddaughter. My parents had to live separately since then. They travelled back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Senawang every week to be with each other. And all these were because of me and my bad temper. And yet, my parents never said anything bad about me.

Every weekend, my mother would drive to Senawang to see my father and their elder granddaughter. Sometimes my father would come back to see my mother and their younger granddaughter, and me, of course. This was going on for some time. Two years later, it was time for my younger niece to enter primary school. They decided that the easiest way for everybody, was to send her to the school in Senawang which her sister went to. Therefore, my mother also moved to Senawang to reunite with my father and both their granddaughters for good. And the two granddaughters were no longer be separated from each other and were living together with their mother under the same house.

My sister moved away from Kuala Lumpur hoping for a brighter and happier future, but it seemed like life didn’t want to be easy on her. Now, she doesn’t have the house or the shop lot anymore because the bank had auctioned off both her house and shop lot to pay back the huge amount of debt she owed to the bank.

While living with my sister, my parents continued to help her to clean up the house, did the cooking, gardening, washing the laundry for everyone and sending the children to school. My sister thought that she didn’t need to give any money to my parents for looking after her children, but instead, she thought that my parents should contribute some money, or pay her back by doing the house works and to serve her and her children, because my parents were living at her house.

I was totally speechless.

This didn’t make sense at all. While her children were living with us and my parents had to take care of them, she would give some money to my parents for taking care of her children and for feeding them. But when my parents were doing the same thing for her, but living in her house, and had to do more house work, and yet, my parents had to contribute money for being the servants of the house? If somebody hired a helper to do some house work, the helper would get to live in the house, would be fed and paid accordingly. It’s like telling the servant, “Since you are living and eating in my house, so you should give me some money and do all the house work in exchange.”

My parents never saw it as working for my sister when they look after the children and did all the house work for her. My parents loved their daughter and granddaughters. Out of love, my parents wanted to take care of them and do everything for them. For my parents, they did everything for us out of love, family love. Family never calculate how much we give and we don’t expect anything in return. But somehow their daughter took this love for granted. But yet, they didn’t mind at all. I totally understood my parents’ hearts, what were they thinking and feeling at that time.

I felt that it was unfair to my parents to do so much for my sister, but they were being treated like free servants, and had to pay for their stay in my sister house for food and accommodation. But, I respect their freedom to do what they wanted to do. They were happy giving all that they could give to my sister. My parents sympathized my sister had lost her husband and had to bring up two young children all by herself. It was very difficult for my sister to work and look after the children at the same time. I could understand that.

My parents had the freedom on how they wanted to use the money that I gave them every month. I couldn’t and shouldn’t dictate how they should spend their pocket money although it was coming from me. Once I gave away the money, it’s up to them about how they wanted to use it. But I convinced my parents that they didn’t need to tell my sister how much money that I gave them every month because I knew my sister would ‘borrow’ all the money that they had, and spent the money recklessly. They listened to me. They received the money from me every month without telling my sister how much I gave them, but they continued to help out my sister’s living expenses silently with their pocket money, without letting her knew about it. How great was that parents’ love!

Sometimes my sister didn’t have enough money to get the daily needs. And hence, my parents were using their own pocket money to do the grocery shopping without telling my sister that the petty cash for grocery shopping had finished, because they didn’t want my sister to get stressed out. This was how much our parents love us. They gave everything and never asked anything in return.

Though my parents showed lots of love and care to their granddaughters, they didn’t respect my parents at all. They shouted at my parents, especially to my mother after she was paralyzed. They ignored my mother when she asked them for something. When my sister didn’t have enough money to give to her daughters for their schooling expenses and daily pocket money, my parents would give their own pocket money to their granddaughters. But they didn’t know how to be grateful and thankful. Again, my parents didn’t mind at all. Sometimes they would cry in front of me and told me about what happened to them in my sister’s home. That was how I learned about what my parents had been going through while living with my sister.

There was a time, my parents had almost finished using their pocket money and my sister hadn’t been giving them money to buy rice and vegetables for some time. Every day she went out to work in the early morning and came home after midnight because she had another part time job as a guest relation officer in a karaoke night club in Seremban. She didn’t realize my parents hadn’t been cooking for a few days. My parents didn’t want to trouble me and didn’t tell me that they were running out of money. They didn’t want to ask money from my sister as well because they knew my sister already had no money to pay bills and all her installments for months. They didn’t tell my sister that there was no more rice in the house. They gave the scarce money that they had to their granddaughters to allow them to buy food at school, and my parents had been eating stale bread for many days, until I gave them their next pocket money. I had been giving them enough money for their living, but they spent all their money for their grandchildren and my sister. And they had to eat stale bread for many days instead. I felt so sad, so sad for my parents. And angry as well.

Many years had passed by, but my sister’s elder daughter didn’t get any better or wiser. She became worse. She couldn’t stop telling lies and stealing. One day she stole her friend’s ATM card and took out lots of money from her friend’s savings account. She bought many dresses, shoes and bags. She came home with all these new things, and told my parents and her mother that she had a rich boyfriend who bought her all these things. Sometimes she also brought some presents back for my sister, my parents and her sister, to show that she loved and cared for the family. She was only fourteen years old at that time. But my parents and my sister didn’t suspect anything.

Until one day, her friend’s mother found out that it was my niece who had been stealing her daughter’s money and came to see my sister and my father, and threatened to call the police. My father panicked. He cried and knelt down and begged to the woman not to call the police. He was afraid that his grandchild would be filed criminal record and wouldn’t have a future anymore. It’s a huge humiliation for a man to kneel down to a woman and beg for spareness. My sister also made a promise to the woman that she would slowly pay back all the stolen money. It was a huge amount for my sister as she already didn’t make enough money for living and she had lots of debts at that time. The woman sympathized with my sister’s situation and was moved by my father’s love for his grandchild, and therefore she agreed that she wouldn’t report to the police.

I believe that my niece wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t right to steal and couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. But I knew that she did it partly was because she was frustrated with the unfortunate and difficult condition of this family. There was always not enough money for food and for living, not to say to have any leisure and material enjoyments like what her friends had. She had been teased by her classmates for not having a father and living in poverty. She also wanted to be nice to the family and to be able to give something back to the family, to help out financially. But she went to the wrong way to get what she wanted.

My niece didn’t learn from this incident. She ended up getting pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl when she was sixteen years old. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant when she hadn’t been menstruating for more than four months. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital to seek doctor’s consultation and found out that she was pregnant. She broke up with the baby girl’s father not long after the baby girl was born, and went out with some other men. And now, my niece has two more young children from a relationship with a young man who didn’t want to accept her elder daughter from the previous relationship. Anyway, their relationship didn’t turn out well. And so, my sister has to look after these two young grandchildren who were very unhappy being caught up in a broken family.

When my niece gave birth to her first baby girl, my sister was very happy to be a grandmother. So as my parents were very happy to be great-grandparents. They loved this great-grandchild so much. This baby girl certainly brought some joys into this family after they had been struggling with financial problems for a very long time. After her delivery, my niece didn’t know how to take care of a baby. Therefore, my sister became the baby’s full time nanny.

When this baby girl came into the family, it brought some relief and happiness to everyone, especially for my mother. She felt so happy seeing her great-grandchild. When she was looking at this little baby girl, her sadness from suffering paralysis and being shouted at by her husband, her daughter and the two grandchildren were all gone. My mother would cry when she told me about how she was being treated when I wasn’t there, but she would smile when she talked about her great-grandchild. It was her happiest moments in the last two months of her life.

On the 24th of December, 2006, my sister called me while I was teaching my morning yoga class at home. She told me that our mother had passed away in the hospital. The last time I saw my mother was a few weeks before she died. In that final conversation which I had with my mother in private, I told her that she didn’t need to worry for us anymore, that she should let go. I told her that I love her very much, as well as our entire family also love her very much. I also asked her what she would like to do with her funeral. And she told me that she wanted to be cremated and the funeral should be held in Kuala Lumpur, so that her friends could come to see her for one last time. The last few words that she told me were we should always give without expect anything in return but we must repay others for being kind to us, and always be humble and forgiving.

I told my sister over the phone about what our mother had told me. And we followed exactly what she wanted us to do.

I went to the hospital in Seremban with my brothers and my sister-in-law. I saw my mother’s dead body lying on a table. She looked so peaceful as if she was smiling. I held her hands and gently rubbed her hands, her arms and her face with my fingers. I kissed her cheek and forehead. Goodbye, mother. Thank you.

I didn’t cry. Not until a few months later, I started to cry. For all the love that she gave me and to the family. Her wisdom and compassion. Her patience and forbearance. Her forgiveness and generosity. I realized how much I missed her then. But I had to let her go.

No matter what had happened in the past, who’s right, who’s wrong, and who’d suffered most, I wish my family love and peace, and be able to forgive and let go. Forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect. Forgive life wasn’t as easy as how we would like it to be.

Life was never easy for me and my family, but I learned to be grateful, thankful and content. I learned to forgive and let go. I learned to be happy no matter what. And love unconditionally.

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About Yoga

Know thyself. Everything is impermanent and selfless. There is no 'I'. There is no 'I am selfless'/'I am not selfless'. There is no 'I am hurt'/'I need to be healed from hurt'. Non-blind believing, non-blind following, non-blind practicing and non-blind propagating, but be open-minded to inquire the truth of everything. Be free. Be peaceful. Be happy.

About Meng Foong

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