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)
In March 2012, I drove more than 2000 Km on a road trip that lasted three weeks. I was taking a break from running yoga retreats and also wanted to know more about Malaysia. I also wanted to concentrate on my own yoga practice and practice yoga with some old friends as well.
My husband wanted to participate in a three days Vipassana silent meditation retreat in the newly opened vipassana centre at Penang Hill in Penang Island. It was the centre’s first course which only allowed participation from old students. It’s like a trial course to ensure the centre is ready to run longer courses.
We left Langkawi a few days earlier to visit a few historical towns in Malaysia before going into Penang.
We sent the car to the car ferry port at Tanjung Lembung on the day before, and then we took the passenger ferry in the early morning that brought us to Kuala Kedah to pick up our car from the car ferry port located just next to the passenger ferry port. We took the scenic old road (K1) driving at around 60 Km an hour towards Sungai Petani. It was really a nice drive as the road was in good condition, and the scenery was beautiful and calm overlooking the green paddy fields, with hills and trees along the way.
We had a quick stop at Pantai Merdeka. There’s nothing much to say about the place, except the nice sea breeze. There’s no beach for swimming. We also went to Bujang Valley or Lembah Bujang in Malay to visit the historical site of Malaysia where the archaeologists and researchers found historical traces of Hinduism and Buddhism artifacts dated more than 2000 years old. It was an eye opener for me to know about the history background of Malaysia.
We stayed in Sungai Petani for two nights in a new budget boutique hotel called T+ Hotel located opposite the Pantai Medical Hospital near the Sungai Petani exit from the North South Highway. It was a very nice and reasonable priced hotel. There was big enough space in the room for me to do some yoga asana practice.
We left Sungai Petani and arrived in Penang two days before the meditation retreat. We found a guesthouse called Red Inn Heritage in Love Lane off Lebuh Chulia. It was a very nice backpackers place with very friendly and helpful staff. They gave us a small room with outside shared toilet, but it doesn’t matter as long as I could continue my yoga asana practice in the room – in a space about 3 x 6 feet.
We got up at 4.00 am. My husband made use of that coolest time of the day to do some writing in the common sitting area of the guesthouse. He was writing for a collection of short stories to be published in Malaysia soon. Meanwhile I did my personal yoga asana and pranayama practice in our room for about two and a half hours.
Later when the gentle morning sunlight came, we went for a walk around the streets of George Town. It’s the best time to walk outdoor in the early hours to enjoy the cooler temperature in Malaysia. We enjoyed Penang very much walking along the main streets and side streets in the old heritage site of George Town, and tasting the local street food and fresh fruit juice. The nutmeg juice, passion fruit juice and ambra juice were fantastic.
After the morning walk and breakfast, we drove around the island via Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi heading towards Balik Pulau and came back through Bayan Lepas. It was a nice drive. We also visited an old Nutmeg confectionery on the way, where my husband tasted the homemade nutmeg juice. His lips went numb for a while after drinking the juice. It was a harmless mild reaction towards nutmeg. Nutmeg juice is believed to be good for digestion and wind relieving.
We came back to the guesthouse and took a nice shower and continued to walk along the streets exploring George Town. We enjoy walking. We walked a lot everywhere we go – in the city or the country side. It is a very good gentle exercise for everyone of any age.
In the evening, my husband started to complain about pain in one of his ankles. This was probably because of walking too much over these two days. It depends on our body conditions. Sometimes too much exercise within a short period of time isn’t necessarily good for the body. Everything has to be balanced. If we feel muscle tightness or soreness, or easily get tired after a short and gentle exercise, then it’s the body telling us that we need to do more regular physical exercise to improve overall fitness. It might be a sign of Calcium deficiency as well.
Because of the sudden intense pain in his ankle, my husband wanted to see a doctor before attending the silent meditation retreat. I asked the man at the fruit juice stall for recommendation of a good Chinese Medicine Therapist in Penang. He recommended us a Chinese “Tit Da” who has a small consultation room inside a food court in Lebuh Kimberly.
A very kind couple sitting next to us overheard our conversation. They offered to send us to the place with their car. We took their offer as my husband felt so much pain in his ankle on every step he took. The couple was very helpful by leading us to the Chinese doctor and introduced us. It seemed like he was quite well-known for the locals in Penang. The price for consultation and massage treatment for muscular-tendon injuries is also very reasonable.
While the Chinese doctor was rubbing some medicine oil onto my husband’s foot and massaging his foot, he looked at my feet and said to me, “Your life is very hard. You had to work and support your family ever since you were very young.”
I smiled and replied, “Yes, I know. But it doesn’t matter as long as I am happy.”
He said, “It is very lucky that you can let go everything easily, or else it would be very suffering for you.”
He then looked at my feet again, and said, “Your parents don’t love you.”
I laughed and replied, “My parents love me very much.”
He was very insisted, “Nope. Your parents don’t love you or care for you, but they only concern about the money you bring back home to them.”
I kept quiet and smiled, as I didn’t need to argue with him whether my parents love me or not, or whether how much my parents love me to determine how much I will love them in return. What he told me didn’t make me unhappy or upset. I am not influenced by what other people say. I am also not determined by how much other people love me, or how other people treat me, or what is the response from other people towards my love and care for them, for how I treat other people and be kind to them. But, it gave me a reflection about there are many people easily being disturbed, influenced and manipulated by what other people say.
There are people who are easily being disturbed or influenced by what other people say, especially words coming from a fortune teller, or astrologer, or religious person, or spiritual person, or respected person, or good friend. How many people’s life or relationships were damaged just because the fortune teller told them something that made them feel bad, angry, unhappy and worry, and have doubts towards the people whom they loved even though nothing is happening?
If a fortune teller told a woman about her husband will leave her one day for another woman, this woman will be so unhappy from then on, and doesn’t trust the husband anymore, even though the husband is very loving and doesn’t have any intention or interest to have any love affair with another woman. Eventually, this woman becomes paranoid and will generate lots of tension in the relationship, and cannot trust or love the husband sincerely. She is always worrying that the husband will be with another woman. Eventually if the husband can’t take it anymore and break down, and gives up this relationship, it’s not because the prediction from the fortune teller is true, but it’s the woman herself being so ignorant that she would rather believe in a fortune teller’s word than believing in herself and her husband who loves her very much and sincerely. It’s a pity. How many relationships were broken because of this cultural practice of fortune telling?
Everyone has the freedom to their thoughts and say what they want to say, but we don’t have to blind-believe in what other people say, or be influenced and determined by what other people think and say. We don’t need to go to fortune tellers or astrologers to find out about the future if we know how to live in the present, be free from craving and aversion, fear and worry. We would do our best in life and allow life to be what it is, without expecting life to be the way that how we like it to be, or not to be the way that we don’t like it to be.
* * * * * * * * * *
It’s true that my life was very hard. He was right about that. That was what I perceived in the past too. A hard life, poor me.
It’s true that if I wasn’t be able to let go easily, I would be very unhappy and miserable having such a ‘hard life’.
He was right when he said that my parents were expecting money from me all the time. That was because they had no choice but to depend on me to bring home some money, because my sister and brothers are living in difficult conditions. I am the only one that they could rely on for helping out the living expenses of the family. There’s nothing wrong with supporting our parents if we are capable to do so. I had been supporting my parents since I was fifteen years old until they passed away. But, I am very glad that I was given the opportunity to be kind and compassionate towards myself and other beings, as this family is also one of the beings. It doesn’t mean that my parents don’t love me when they expect me to support their living. They loved me and everyone in the family very much.
Meanwhile some people are having children because they believe and expect their children would and should support their living later in life in return. They expect their children to carry out the duty of a child towards the parents, to look after them and support their living when they are old. While the children are being told that it is an obligation to support their parents and family in return. Those who think they are obliged to support their parents and family, but they are not willingly to do so, or they are not capable to do so, will be very unhappy, under pressure and exhausted mentally and emotionally. Some might feel guilty or blame themselves for being unable to look after or support their parents. While some people want to feel good about themselves by supporting their family, as it makes them feel proud about themselves for being able to give, for being a ‘good’ child or ‘good’ human being. They give is not for the sake of giving, but to gain some sorts of satisfaction about themselves in return. There’s nothing wrong with all these conventional thinking and belief, but yoga practice is to free the mind from all these conditional thinking and belief of the egoistic worldly society.
No one is obliged to support their family, as what the conventional worldly thinking and belief say so. But people would support their family, especially looking after their old parents, unconditionally out of love, not out of obligation, if they are capable to do so, if they want. There is no pressure or ill-feelings of guilt and pride in this act of kindness. People shouldn’t feel bad about themselves if they are not able to give to their family or to support their parents, and don’t need to feel proud if they are capable to do so.
All the hardships were in the past. I let go the hardships. I don’t hold onto hardships.
Although before they passed away, I still needed to support my father and my brother who had to look after my father 24 hours a day and he couldn’t work at the same time, but it really didn’t matter as long as I was still able to give. I am grateful that somebody who was dear to my father whom my father felt comfortable with, was taking good care of him. I won’t feel bad or unhappy if I was not able to give anymore, I would let them go.
I don’t need to continue to feed the past unhappy memories that doesn’t exist anymore, or let them influence how I should think and feel, to behave, to act or react in the present moment now. These past memories can’t determine the future either. I freed myself from being the slave of past happenings or memories. Meanwhile, by sharing my past stories might bring some light to someone who is going through hardship or is unhappy in life just like what I had went through.
There’s no secret and it’s not difficult to be free. Just keep practicing letting go. Forgive, and let go. Understand, and there will be nothing to let go.
In the past when I was deluded by ignorance, I felt and thought that my parents didn’t love me or care for me. But what my mind perceived about my parents couldn’t determine that my parents were bad parents or had treated me badly. It was all my own delusion and personal projection towards them that I felt and thought they were being unloving and unfair to me. I was really miserable, angry and full of hatred because of my own projection derived from incorrect understanding. I had shouted at my parents ruthlessly hurting their feelings many times, but they were never angry with me for my heart-breaking behavior and had accepted me as I was, and they allowed me to express how I felt and thought. Even if they had treated me badly which they didn’t, it really didn’t matter. I could still love them and care for them out of compassion.
After I understood about life and realized love and peace in myself, I stopped seeing there’s any problems or unhappiness in my life. I only feel gratefulness and contentment for the unconditional love and formless support that my parents and the universe had been giving me even though at certain stage, I felt and thought that they didn’t love me or care for me in the past out of my own projection.
Sometimes our parents caught up in some difficult moments in life to support our living until they can’t pay much attention to their children. They are physically and mentally exhausted by working very hard to provide the family with a better life condition or just to make enough for living, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t love their children. I can truly understand it now, but not in the past though. That’s why I was very unhappy and angry. In the past, even though my father earned very little salary every month, he still afforded to bring us to the seaside for picnic on every weekend or brought us to the cinema for a movie, to spend his free time with his family. He didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and didn’t go out for entertainment at all, except being with us, with his family. It was only after the financial crisis in our family started, it’s no longer for us to have such outings and activities anymore. There were times during the difficult moments, we didn’t have food or money for the next meal.
When life is hard and there is no food on the table to feed their children, how could anyone think about some other things, not to say, to provide some leisure enjoyments to their children? It doesn’t mean that the parents don’t love their children. When they can provide the basic necessities for living out of love, they will also want to give the best education and living environment to their children to have a better life and brighter future. But, sometimes in the process of striving to give as much as they can give to their children, they can’t manage to take care of everything at one time. They only have one head, two arms, two legs and one body. While working hard for living they cannot be with their family all the time.
Some unhappy and angry children who hate themselves or hate their life and their parents, they might blame their parents for given birth to them while they were not financially stable enough to feed their children and couldn’t afford to bring them up in a comfortable environment. But, take a look at so many financially secured families with children, are they all happy and in peace and harmony? It’s not necessarily that being financially secured is a guarantee that the children will be happy and well loved. Without a high income also doesn’t determine that the children in that family will be unhappy and unloved. Love is not measured by money and life condition. It depends on each individual about how much we understand about life and how we cope with different living environments and conditions.
It’s not necessarily the fault of the parents when the children continue to be angry and unhappy about life as they grow into adulthood, blaming their parents for their own unhappiness.
Maybe in some cases of an unhappy family are due to irresponsible parents who neglect or abuse their children deliberately, but the grown up children should learn to take responsibility for themselves and their life no matter how much hardship they had been through in their childhood. There are people who came from broken family or had had some very bad childhood experiences with their parents, they still can be very successful and happy in life now. It really depends on ourselves whether we want to be disturbed and determined by our parents’ ignorance and be miserable all the time, or we can forgive and let go, and move on our life, and be free.
Whether the parents had succeeded or failed in providing what the society thinks and believes as appropriate growing up condition to their children, as their children we should be thankful and grateful for all their sacrifices and hardships that they had gone through. Sometimes our parents had done their best, but still life could be very hard on them. They might also feel depressed, exhausted, disappointed and frustrated in life, and when they come home from work, if the children complain, shout, cry and demand for this and that, or misbehave, it can be very tough for the parents as well.
Some children understood the sacrifices and hardships that their parents had gone through, and be grateful and appreciative towards whatever life had brought to them. They strive to do well and be happy in life to repay their parents with love and understanding, and provide a happy living environment for their parents. There are also children who couldn’t understand their parents’ sacrifices and hardships, and be angry and hating their parents for neglecting them, or didn’t support them, or didn’t give them what they want, or putting too much pressure on them to do well in life while they were growing up. And they continue to be unhappy, angry and dissatisfied in life after growing up and even after having their own family, and they blame their parents to be the reason why they are unhappy in life.
In this era, it’s rare to have parents who can have a flexible or short hour job to support a family and give maximum attention to their children at the same time. My mother was a stay at home house wife who took care of us the whole time before our family financial crisis. Then she had no choice but to go out to do some business to help out the living expenses during the financial crisis. She worked wasn’t because she was greedy or being ambitious, or wanted to be a successful business woman, and neglected us to chase after her own dream.
Even if she was chasing after her own dream after having a family, there’s nothing wrong with that. A woman, whether single or married, with or without children, should be able to have her dreams come true and has her own time doing something that she likes to do, even if she has certain duty and responsibility towards her family. Everyone will be busy at some stage in life and we might not be able to do everything at one time. Tolerance, adjustment, understanding and support should come from the children towards their parents as well, and it doesn’t has to be merely coming from the parents towards their children.
It’s not easy to be parents, especially when they try to do their best to be good parents. Some children complain about their parents didn’t support them enough. Some complain about what their parents give them is not what they want. Some complain about the parents didn’t care for them or didn’t pay enough attention to them. Some complain about the parents pay too much attention on them and make them feel pressured. Some complain about the parents don’t love them, while some complain that the parents love them too much. One expectation clashes with another expectation. Parents who have expectations towards the children, and children who have expectations towards the parents, and they all are disappointed towards each other due to their own expectation. This is all the play of ignorance and egoism.
Nobody can give me stress or put pressure on me, as nobody can influence me with their expectation or projection onto me. I don’t have to bother about other people’s expectation towards me, as I didn’t even have expectation towards myself. As this ‘I’ is just an impermanent name and form. It’s neither something good nor bad. It’s just what it is.
I don’t need to behave as what other people think I should behave.
In the end of life, who cares about how others think and judge and expect about “I”? This mind doesn’t mind.
A mad person and a liberated being, they both might behave the same, they both don’t bother about how the world think or judge about them, but one is without awareness and self-control, and is restless, while the other one is with awareness and self-control, and is peaceful.
I was, and I am grateful for what life had brought to me in the past, and what life gives me in the present moment, even if the experiences were not and is not always desirable, pleasant, or easy.
“I” am not affected, or influenced, or determined by other people’s thinking and behaviors, or how others treat me. Not even my parents or my partner in life can determine me for how I should think, feel, behave, act and react. “I” am not even responsible for “my life existence”, how can anybody else be responsible for “my life”? This life of the body and mind belongs to all the elements and energy, influenced by the law of nature, cause and effect, impermanence and selflessness. All these names and forms don’t belong to “I”. “I” don’t own “this life”. One day “this life” will come to an end. It’s not in the control of “I” about how long this body and mind will continue to be functioning and existing. Anytime the heart will stop beating, the lungs will stop breathing, and the body will decompose. Moreover, this “I” is not even I.
Just like I don’t own happiness. And certainly I do not create happiness. Peace is always there whether I am aware of it, or not. “I”, or the ego can be miserable sometimes even though peace never comes or goes, never increases or decreases. “I”, or the ego is always too busy with the impurities in the mind, being busy with reactions towards all the perceptions of name and form through the senses.
Nothing is more important than being happy and grateful towards ourselves, and loving ourselves as we are. Whether we think there’s nobody love and care for us, or there is really nobody to show love and care for us, or we are being treated badly or unfairly by others, as long as we know how to love ourselves, unselfishly, unconditionally, compassionately, everything will go into their respective places. Loving ourselves is the initial manifestation of compassion. And compassion is the key to ultimate freedom from suffering.
I stopped looking for love and attention from the world or from anybody. I don’t need to look for love and attention from others for me to feel love. Loneliness doesn’t exist in me, wherever I am, alone or being with somebody. Some people still feel lonely even though they have family and many friends being with them. Because loneliness isn’t coming from being alone. It is a feeling of emptiness or void that is nothing to do with whether there is some other people being with us, or not. Many people don’t like or have fear towards loneliness or emptiness. If we want to be free from loneliness, we need to know the Truth of who we really are, and realize non-separateness or oneness. Loneliness doesn’t exist because “I” don’t really exist. The mind perceives loneliness as the mind thinks it’s separated from what it perceives. Physically and mentally there is a sense of separateness, and is limited by time, space and causation. But beyond the body and the mind, beyond the perception of names and forms, there is no separateness.
Everyone has the freedom to apply judgment onto anything and anyone, but we don’t need to be determined by other people’s judgment, not even judgment coming from this mind towards itself, or what the mind thinks is judgment coming from me to myself.
Whether they are good and happy experiences or bad and unhappy experiences, all experiences are part of the mind purification process. I am grateful and thankful towards all kinds of experiences in life.
After sending my husband to a meeting place for the participants of the Vipassana silent meditation retreat in Ayer Itam at the foot of Penang Hill, I drove towards Kuala Lumpur by myself. I stayed 4 nights in a budget hotel called De Nice Inn in OUG square at Old Klang Road. It’s an okay hotel with helpful staff, but they didn’t have non-smoking rooms. The room smelled badly. I let the room air out for one whole day and the smell of cigarette was gone. The room was small, but I managed to squeeze in my usual yoga asana practice while staying here.
Besides doing my own practice in the hotel room, I had arranged to meet up with some old students and good friends in their home to practice yoga asana with me during my few days in Kuala Lumpur, to encourage them to develop self-practice at home. Their lives are very busy with many responsibilities of a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a charity club member, a community member, a full time mother, driver and tuition teacher to their children, as well as the maid for the house doing all the cleaning, washing, cooking and grocery shopping. Taking some time out of their busy schedule to do some yoga practice regularly at home to look after themselves is not that easy.
After spending four days in Kuala Lumpur, I drove to Penang to meet up with my husband and then drove back to Kuala Lumpur again as my husband wanted to attend a monthly reading session in Bangsar organized by Sharon Bakar, an important influencer who promotes the reading and writing scene of Malaysia.
We stopped by Taiping and stayed two nights at a reasonable priced new hotel called Hotel Taiping Perdana. The room was big and the staff were very efficient and friendly. We walked into the town and tasted some of the local hawker’s food. We also went to the Lake Garden and enjoyed a splash in a river nearby called the Burmese Pool. Taiping is a very peaceful quiet town.
From Taiping to Kuala Lumpur, we took the old road (K5), but it wasn’t a nice road with lots of potholes. We stopped by at Kuala Selangor for dinner and decided to join the fire-flies watching boat tour. We almost turned back halfway as the road to the fire-flies watching jetty was very dark and narrow, and the signs were not very clear. There were many people waiting to go on the boats, so we decided not to do the trip this time as we might arrive too late in Kuala Lumpur, and my friend was waiting to receive us in their home. Somehow, we still ended up arriving late. The traffic from Kuala Selangor to Subang was congested that evening. We found out the next day from newspaper that the congestion was because Klang was hit by a flood that day.
On this second trip to Kuala Lumpur, we stayed with my friend and her family in their home in Subang USJ. It was a very beautiful home stay experience. It was a very lovely harmonious home. My friend and her husband are a very loving and cheerful couple. So are their children – open-minded and cheerful. We received warm welcome from the entire family and had a few days of great sharing. My husband had a wonderful time being with the kids and chatting with my friend’s husband. The elder daughter who was only nine years old at that time, but already played piano for four years. She played a very nice piece of music on our first night there. Both the children spoke excellent English and communicated very well with my husband. They were very self-disciplined on looking after their homework and studies. It’s not surprising that they always had very good results in school.
I did a yoga asana practice session with my friend. The children also joined in imitating what we were doing for fun.
After 17 days of travelling, we finally headed back to Langkawi. It was a long journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Kedah. We took the North South Highway (E1) this time. As usual, we made a stop-over at Penang for one night. On the next morning, we continued driving towards Kuala Kedah to send the car to the car ferry-port before 1.00 pm. And we made it for the 1.30 pm passenger ferry to get back to Langkawi Island.
It was nice to be back to our little simple home.
PS: The ‘Tit Da’ Chinese doctor mentioned that my husband is a man
who loves and cares for his wife very much. That’s very true. I truly
appreciate my husband’s love and care for me, without intention, without
expectation, without attachment, and without craving and clinging.