be free, be happy, be peaceful

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You are not how you look, or what you think how you look, and definitely not how other people perceive or see and think how you look...

Just watched a "touching" video about how women see themselves vs how other people see them (through the physical appearance, or what they think about how they look, or how they feel about themselves based on their physical look).

Our egoistic thinking and feeling mind identifies with our physical body as "I" or "who I am". The egoistic mind attached onto the physical appearance, conditions and abilities to determine the sense of self-esteem, or self-confidence, or self-worth.

"I see myself so ugly, and I feel bad. But other people see me so beautifully, and I feel much better. I'm actually better or worth more than what I think I deserve. As this is what other people think of me. What I think about myself is incorrect, and what others think of me is what I really am."

I guess this is the message that the advertisement tries to inform people. It is sort of an 'encouraging' message for people who are suffering from low self-esteem.

But it doesn't help people to be free from being conditioned by "self-esteem" or "self-worth" that built out of a self-image that derived from ignorance and egoism.

What if other people see us worst than how we see ourselves? (Just like in another video of the men's version of this advertisement campaign)

x x x x x x x x x x

Yoga and Buddhism teachings and practice are here for us to learn how to free the mind from being conditioned by "self-esteem" or "self-worth", which is a side product deriving from ignorance and egoism.

"You are not how you look. You are not what you think how you look. You are not even what you think is who you are. You are not how other people see and think about how you look or who you are. You are not this physical body. You are not how you feel. You are not this thinking and feelings. You are not this mind. The body and mind is not "who I am". There is no "I". It's just the limited body and mind being conditioned by selfless impermanent changes and decay under the nature's law of cause and effect."

This is the basic teaching and practice of yoga. This physical body and its appearance, its conditions and abilities, as well as the egoistic thinking mind that perceives all the names and forms through the senses, who sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches, feels, thinks, judges, desires, expects, acts and reacts, who has likes and dislikes, that comes along with certain personalities, behaviors and characteristics, are not "who I am". They are not "I". The body and mind are merely selfless impermanent names and forms that constantly changing and decaying.

When there is attachment and identification towards the body and the modification of the mind, and the qualities of names and forms, the mind (what we think is ourselves, or "I"), identifies itself with a self-image that is very much based on :-

- The physical appearance, conditions and abilities of what we can do and cannot do. We perceive and create a self-image for ourselves through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, think and feel. There is an exception if any of the senses is not functioning, such like those who are blind from birth, they might not perceive sights/images/shapes/colours, but they might have a self-image for themselves through the perception from the other senses.

- How we feel and think and judge about ourselves, that is influenced by the egoism, pride, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, self-criticism, beliefs, religious teachings, relationships, friendships, family and educational background (how we were brought up and what we were told about how we should think and behave), social network and cultural background (the sense of belonging in certain group, culture or society), what we do in life, what we do for living, lifestyle and living standards, possessions, material belongings, enjoyments, likes and dislikes, ambitions, desires, achievements, expectations, judgments, and etc.

x x x x x x x x x

The self-image is the reflection of the ego, or the non-existence "I", that built on our feelings, emotions, thinking, beliefs, characteristics, personalities and all kinds of experiences in that present moment other than the qualities of the physical body.

Our self-image is also being determined by how other people perceive and judge about us through what they see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think about us, based on our physical appearance, attires and accessories, hair styles and grooming, facial features, body shapes, body language, facial expression, personal hygiene and tidiness, body smells, skin texture and complexion, expression of thinking, ideas, beliefs, behaviors, emotions, speech, actions and reactions, things that they had heard about us from somewhere, their memories about us in the past, as well as direct contact and personal interactions with us in the present moment. But all these perceptions and judgments from other people are not necessarily the truth of "I" either.

Perceptions from our own mind or from other people's mind that are based on past memories and what the mind thinks, believes and judges what things are, it is not necessarily the truth of things. When our mind is influenced by negative thinking, then everything that we perceive will be contaminated by this negativity in the mind. When our mind is influenced by positive thinking, then everything that we perceive will be contaminated by this positivity in the mind as well. But that is not what things really are. They are neither negative nor positive. They are just what they are. It is just the mind being positive or negative.

Some people who have not seen us for a long time, might still keep a strong image of us (either positive, or negative, or mixture of positive and negative, and whether they liked us or not in the past, whether they'll like us or not in the present moment) based on the memories from the last time they saw us many years ago, and judge us for who we are, which is not the truth of who we are, how we look, how we feel, or how we behave in the present moment now. And most of the time, memories are distorted images. It is not the truth of things as it is.

This self-image comes from our own perception, or from how other people perceive us, is partial and impermanent. It is constantly changing. Our feelings and thinking change. Our physical appearance, conditions and abilities change. Our likes and dislikes, personalities, beliefs, or behaviors change. Everything about us (who we think we are - the mind and the body) change. If this momentary selfless existence is being determined by all these impermanent qualities, then "I" will be in a state of restlessness and dissatisfaction all the time.

Sometimes the mind doesn't want to see things as they are, but projects an imaginary image of what it prefers to be. This is what the teachings of yoga talked about, "The mind only sees and hears what it wants to see or hear..."

No one can argue with one another about each individual mind perceptions about the qualities of names and forms. As each may perceives distinctively or differently from one another on every names and forms that we come in contact with. That's why judgment of good and bad, positive and negative, happiness or suffering, are relatively and subjectively different in each individual about what things are. All these judgments about good or bad, positive or negative, happiness or suffering, are not the truth of what things really are, but it is coming from our own mind limited perceptions based on what our mind thinks, believes and expects what things are.

What we see as beautiful might be something ugly for other people, and vice versa.

The video of this advertisement campaign might help people to realize that our physical appearance or image, is very much being influenced by how we think and feel about ourselves, which is true. But then, in this campaign, people are still relying on a self-image that based on how we think and feel about ourselves, and how other people think and feel about us, to determine that self-image as "This is I". This attachment towards a self-image with certain qualities of names and forms to be identifying as who we are, is the opposite of the teachings of yoga.

There is no "I" being there to be identifying as this or that quality.

x x x x x x x x x

There is nothing wrong to feel better and happier about ourselves, whether it is coming from our own mind perception or from other people's mind perception, and to feel that we actually "worth" more than what we think we deserve. But this only strengthens and empowers the egoism and the attachment towards the physical appearance, the qualities of names and forms, and how other people judge us, to determine the sense of self-worth, self-esteem, or self-confidence of the ego. This is completely going to the opposite direction of the path of yoga and Buddhism towards the realization of selflessness, attributelessness, namelessness and formlessness.

What happen to our ego, when other people see us worst than how we see ourselves, if we are being determined by all these perceptions of names and forms, and judgments coming from our own mind or other people's mind?

We don't need to feel or think that we "worth" a million to feel good about ourselves. We don't even need to feel good. Peace is there as it is, undetermined by how the mind feels and thinks under the influence of ignorance and egoism.

Yoga and Buddhism practice is about letting go of this identification with the physical body and the egoistic thinking mind, as "who I am".

There is no doubt that our confidence, thinking and feelings are influencing the projection of a self-image from the appearance, and vice versa. When our mind feels really bad or really great, it does reflect on our appearance. The self-image that we see ourselves or give to ourselves, are most probably not the same as how other people perceive us. And if we are affected by how different people perceive us differently, our belief and self-confidence about ourselves that built on a projected self-image will be broken easily and frequently.

Sometimes we didn't dressed up "nicely", without any make up or accessories, our physical body is not in a great form, but we will see ourselves looking good as we feel great, confident and happy. This is because we like and love ourselves as we are. Vice versa, even though we dressed up "nicely", put on some beautiful make up and accessories, our physical body is in a great form, but we don't see ourselves looking good, as we feel down, lack of confidence and unhappy. This is because we don't like and don't love ourselves as we are.

If we have true confidence (coming from knowing the Truth of impermanence and selflessness), that is unconditioned and unlimited by the qualities of names and forms, then it doesn't matter what is the conditions, abilities and appearance of this physical body, and what the mind thinks or feels about ourselves, it will not influence or determine us as who we are. Even though sometimes our mind feels sad or down due to certain reasons, but it won't determine or change the truth of selflessness and the unconditional peace.

When the mind knows how to free itself from any identification with any qualities of names and forms, then it doesn't matter how it perceives itself, or how other minds perceive this mind, the mind is just what it is, being undetermined or unconditioned by the impermanent physical appearance/condition and state of the mind.
Om shanti.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The lineage of yoga is being contaminated or manipulated by some impure beings?

Out of love and protection towards the lineage of yoga and meditation, some good beings are being angry and worried about the lineage of yoga might be destroyed, or contaminated, or manipulated by some people in the world who are involving in practicing and teaching yoga and meditation without correct understanding or pure intention.

It is normal and nothing wrong to be worried and upset about this. Anyone also will feel sad when seeing something "good" is being contaminated or destroyed.

The point is, we don't have to be angry or worried about whether the lineage of yoga will be destroyed, or contaminated, or manipulated by some impure beings, as there is no one, or nothing can destroy, contaminate or manipulate the essence of the teachings of yoga or the lineage of yoga. When we think like that (even though it is out of our love towards the lineage of yoga), it shows that we don't really have faith in Dharma/Dhamma, or in God, or in the universal consciousness, or in the Self... As all these names and terms are not separated nor different from each other.

The true Self is identical with the universal consciousness. And the true Self will not and cannot be contaminated, nor affected, nor destroyed, nor hurt, nor wounded by anyone, or anything, or qualities, or elements... This teaching is indicated in the Bhagavad Gita.

Ashochyaan anvaschochastwam prajnaavaadaamshcha bhaashase;
Gataasoon agataasoomshcha naanushochanti panditah.
(commentary by Swami Sivananda - Thou hast grieved for those that should not be grieved for, yet thou speakest words of wisdom. The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the death.)

Acchedyo'yam addaahyo'yam akledyo'shoshya eva cha;
Nityah sarvagatah sthaanur achalo'yam sanaatanah.
(commentary by Swami Sivananda - This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted or dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, ancient and immovable.)

When we say Dharma/Dhamma is not affected, nor contaminated, nor hurt by anything or anyone, but it's existence with name and form (the appearance and qualities) in this world is still conditioned by impermanence. It can be destroyed, be contaminated, be manipulated. But the essence or the true nature of Dharma/Dhamma, or the Truth, cannot be destroyed, nor contaminated, nor manipulated. We need to be able to accept the qualities of names and forms (the appearance of Dharma/Dhamma in the world) is subject to changes and impermanence.

Buddha had mentioned about everything that is existing with certain qualities of names and forms, is impermanent, even Dhamma also will be disappearing from the world, but the essence of Dhamma or the Truth can never be contaminated, nor manipulated, nor destructed by anyone or anything...

So what if the authentic lineage of yoga is gradually disappearing from the world? There must be a cause for that to happen, and the truth about everything is, all the names and forms are subject to impermanence.

If everyone is free from ignorance, if everyone is wise and compassionate, if everyone is pure and enlightened, then there is no need of this practice or that practice, including yoga, meditation, Buddhism or any other forms of practice...

It is because people are not free and are not pure, that's why everyone should take up some forms of practice that can help them to be free, to be pure, to be wise, to be compassionate...

Yoga, meditation, Buddhism and other types of practice, are not specially prescribed for the wise, compassionate, peaceful and selfless beings, as all these beings are already free. They don't need yoga, meditation, Buddhism or any other forms of practice to help them to be free, as they are free...

And so, it is not abnormal, nor strange, nor bad, when we see so many people are practicing and teaching yoga in the world now without "correct understanding" or "pure intentions", as these beings are the one who needed yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice mostly and urgently, to attain correct understanding and be puried through all these practice.

Out of compassion, anyone are welcome to practice yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice, as that is what all these practices are here for...

And thus, why be angry and upset towards all these "impure happenings" that are going on in the world of yoga, meditation, Buddhism, or any other forms of practice?

If the door of yoga and meditation is only accepting and be opened to those who are pure and wise, so that the lineage of yoga is not being contaminated nor manipulated by all these beings that are not free yet, who are not enlightened yet, then there are only few people in the world are qualified to practice yoga and meditation...

Indeed, we should try our best to protect Dharma/Dhamma as much as we can, as long as we can, so that more beings (who are not free, who need Dharma/Dhamma) will be benefited from the lineage of yoga to be free. But out of compassion, we need to allow and accept all these impure beings into the world of yoga and let them mess around a bit, allow everyone to take their own time to purify, to transform, and be wise and pure. Just like bringing up children. We have to accept them as they are, allow them to make mistakes and learn to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, allow them to learn and transform in their own ways and pace, allow them to be who they are, and love them as they are.

We don't have to be worried and angry about all these things that are going on in the world of yoga and meditation that seem to be "corrupted", or "not so pure", or "not so authentic", if we truly love yoga, love God, love Dharma/Dhamma, love our Self and love all beings.

I don't even identify myself as pure being, that's why I am still performing my practice regularly as much as I can...

Who am I to judge or criticize other beings for being not pure?

It is okay if in the beginning there are many people who are not pure, who try to do yoga, but are not doing the yoga practice the right way, nor with correct understanding, nor with pure intentions. Everyone starts with being impure and ignorant, and then transformation happens as we practice and when the time is right.

In the beginning when I first started teaching yoga (exercise) class in the dance studio, I had no idea what yoga is or is not. I had no intention to be a yoga teacher to teach yoga classes. I didn't like yoga asana exercises, as I thought they were boring and too slow for me. I didn't even think that I will be giving yoga classes and share yoga with so many people in the present now. My main motivation to teach yoga (exercise) classes beside my full time job as aerobics instructor in the past, was to earn a living to support myself, my parents and to help out my poor family.

The income that came from teaching yoga classes before I went to India, allowed me to be able to pay for my course fees, flight ticket and other expenses, as well as some monthly financial support for my parents when I was not around.

You may read the more detailed story about what brought me to India and how I managed to have the money to go to India to learn yoga, from this link

As I went deeper into the practice while at the same time giving yoga classes, I allowed myself to transform from within, and I owed this to the opportunity given to me by the universe. The universe was and still is so kind to me. It accepted me when I was ignorant, and be compassionate towards me and my family for my family's poor living condition, and gave me the opportunity to teach "yoga classes" to improve my earning to support myself and my family, but most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to learn about yoga, and to practice yoga, and to transform myself into a more peaceful being. And I serve the universe by sharing these learning and transformation with other beings, where the universe bring us to meet each other.

Protect and preserve the Dharma/Dhamma in us by destroying the ego, impurities and ignorance in us. Trust and have faith in the universal consciousness, allow the universal consciousness to take care of everything else. We are underestimating the power of the universal consciousness (the power of nature) if we think Dharma/Dhamma is going to be contaminated or manipulated by some impure beings. As even if that is happening, there is something for everyone to learn from. A fake guru, or an impure yogi, or a bad yoga teacher can teach us a lot about many things that we need to learn.

Om shanti.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Yogi? Guru? Yoga schools? Ashrams?

A (real) yogi is not determined by all the qualities of names and forms, nor to be judged by their actions and speech, personality or behavior, physical conditions or appearances, attires or accessories, actions or inactions...

If anyone try to look out for a yogi, or try to identify a yogi, and start looking at all these qualities of names and forms to judge and determine whether this or that being is a yogi or not, or is a "good" yogi or not, then we will never find it...

The real search is to realize the "yogi" in ourselves... It is not looking out to see who is yogi and who is not... It is finding or realizing the highest teacher in us, and it's not looking for teachers from the outside to set as an example, or to give us a lift, or to motivate us, or to enlighten us, for us to realize what we are here for.

That is what yoga practice is about. It is for us to realize the attributeless selflessness unconditioned by the qualities of names and forms, in us, beyond our egoistic thinking mind, conditioned and limited physical body, impermanent physical conditions and abilities, appearances, features, shapes, colours, language, personality, characteristic, actions and inactions, short lived or long lived, being in solitude or being among the world, real or unreal, where all are nothing but impermanent and selfless names and forms arising and passing away, governed by the nature law of cause and effect...

Real yoga practice is not necessarily to be found and learned from some other people (so called yoga teachers, or Gurus, or yogis), or from yoga schools, or from Ashrams. The entire (timeless) teachings of yoga is already within us, as the nature of all is identical with the universal selfless consciousness... This is the fundamental essential teachings of yoga. Before the realization of selflessness, our higher pure Self will guide the impure lower self when the time is right. And when the lower self is purified (the ego is eliminated) and it becomes one with the higher Self, there is no more separation or duality. There is no pure or impure self, higher or lower self, teacher or student, inferiority or superiority, good or evil, wise or ignorant, selfish or unselfish...

All the pleasant and unpleasant experiences through this body and mind, of whatever we feel, see, hear, smell, taste, touch and think, are our Gurus. When we experience suffering and painful sorrow, when we experience selfless impermanent changes, that is where the teachings and practice is. We don't need to ask somebody else to inflict pain or suffering onto us, for us to learn about something or to realize about the universal Truth of Selflessness and Impermanence. Our own ignorant impure egoistic mind itself is the origin of all sorts of pain and suffering.

It is not about looking out at other beings, trying to find out, or judge, or determine each and everyone as good beings or bad beings, as saintly beings or evil beings, as selfish beings or unselfish beings, as enlightened beings or ignorant beings, as compassionate beings or discompassionate beings, as yogi or not yogi, as pure yogi or impure yogi, as Guru or not Guru, as real Guru or fake Guru, as yoga teacher or not yoga teacher, as good yoga teacher or bad yoga teacher, and so on...

Look within. That is the only real and pure yogi, Guru, Ashram, yoga teacher, yoga teachings, yoga practice that we can rely on...

Take care of our own mind, our own actions and speech, why be bothered or be disturbed by other people's mind, their actions and their speech?

Om shanti.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My life stories - Part 10

My life Stories - Part 10
Stories from my past memories - childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams came true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now...

(Updated November 2020)

We love travelling and had travelled a lot during the last ten years while we were living on Langkawi Island. Wherever we went, we enjoyed our stay and travelling in the different places with different cultures, scenery and climates. We were also very happy to be back in Langkawi after travelling to some other places.

Living in Langkawi wasn’t any much different from being in a beautiful holiday destination. Many people from around the world go there for short and long holidays. Throughout our travelling regardless of whether we were staying with our family and friends, or staying in the many different tourists guest houses, I continued my daily yoga asana practice wherever we went, on top of the formless yoga practice within the mind every moment which is unseen from the appearance.

Yoga asana practice coordinates with the breath that requires certain amount of self-discipline, concentration, awareness, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, determination, forbearance and perseverance, isn’t all of yoga. It’s one of the many types of the yoga practice that can help us to influence the state of the mind, to purify the mind, to bring the mind into the present, to channel our energy into performing self-inquiry and meditation to realize unconditional love and peace, to develop correct thinking and self-control to counter evil or negative tendencies, to develop non-attachment and non-identification towards the body and mind, to let go the ego and the desires of craving and aversion, to develop inner strength and flexibility to deal with challenges and undesirable experiences in life, and eventually be free from all sorts of suffering that derived from ignorance and egoism.

Yoga asana practice being practiced with the correct attitude and understanding helps us to realize and respect the truth of impermanence in everything, be able to let go attachment towards the qualities of name and form, and thus, be unaffected, undisturbed and undetermined by the impermanent qualities of name and form that the mind perceives through the senses. It also helps to maintain a better physical and mental health condition for us to make good use of this body and mind or this life existence, to help ourselves to be in peace and to serve other beings.

At home in Langkawi, whether we were running yoga retreats or not, I maintained my daily yoga asana practice even if it’s only for one hour in the evening after sending our retreat guests back to the guest house. When we were running yoga retreats, I would get up around 6.00 am, and would be continuing busy until after 9.00 pm, or sometimes after 10.30 pm if we brought our guests to Kuah town for dinner and to explore the local night market. When there was a short break in between yoga classes, I was being busy with preparing the meals for the retreat.

I enjoyed being busy with running the yoga retreats, teaching yoga classes, doing the maintenance work such like cleaning and tidying our yoga studio and our home where the retreat guests had their meals with us, being the driver sending our guests between our yoga studio and the guest house, shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables and what we need for the retreats, and cooking for our guests.

When we didn’t have yoga retreats going on, I also enjoyed having more free time for ourselves (my husband and I) spending time together going to the beach or the waterfalls and doing the things that we weren’t able to do when we were running the retreats. Usually I practiced my daily asana routine for about two hours when we were not running retreats, as well as writing some blog posts inspired by my daily personal yoga practice and from giving yoga classes.

Rarely, some days I would take rest from asana practice. I didn’t feel bad or uncomfortable when I don’t perform asana practice for a day or a few days, as that was the resting time which my body needed for that time being, to be away from too many physical activities. It doesn’t matter if there is no suitable time or space for me to practice yoga asana physically, the yoga practice within will never stop.

During our travelling in India for more than six weeks in the end of 2012, I had encountered quite serious discomfort on my left knee coming from the old injuries resulted from my previously more than twenty years of high impact fitness workouts and competitive physical trainings for competitions. I couldn’t walk properly. The pain woke me up during my sleep for many nights. But still, it didn’t stop me from doing my daily yoga asana practice. I still continued with my yoga asana practice with some modifications to allow my knee to heal itself with some exercises that help to strengthen and maintain the mobility of the muscular tendons that support the knees. The knee discomfort went on for four months before getting back to its normal condition (discomfort free).

These are the videos of my daily yoga asana practice in India while having the knee discomfort. It wasn’t much different from my usual asana practice, but I performed the exercises with some adjustments to accommodate the discomfort in my left knee :

Basically, I live a very simple lifestyle. Besides the daily life routines, I spend most of the time observing silence and doing yoga practice, purifying the thoughts, actions and speech, developing and strengthening the inner strength and flexibility, being aware of and letting go desire of craving and aversion, impurities or impure thoughts that arising and passing away in the mind, and sharing yoga through the blogs. I spend some of the time on doing house works, washing and cleaning which I enjoy very much. I never feel there’s any separation from yoga whether I am doing some yoga practice in a particular name and form, or just living every day life.

It doesn’t matter whether my body is at rest or in action, being with some other people or being with myself, I don’t feel separation from yoga. Whatever I do or don’t do, all are not separated from yoga practice. Buddhism practice, Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga are all co-existing in actions and inactions. It’s all about eliminating the ego and egoism, removing ignorance, and to enjoy real freedom of peace. All these are the yoga and meditation practice in life every moment. Without doing any yoga asana practice or any other forms of yoga practice of particular name and form doesn’t stop the mind from practicing yoga or realizing yoga, and be in peace.

I spend lots of time being with myself (whether surrounded by people and happenings, or being alone), especially when there are no retreats. I don’t feel myself being isolated from anything or anyone, even when I am alone by myself. I don’t feel that I need to be in certain place, or being with certain people that I like, or doing certain things that I enjoy doing, to feel good, happy, love and meaningful. The point is, I don’t need to feel good, happy, love and meaningful at all. I am peaceful as I am. Wherever I am or I am not, whatever I am doing or I am not doing, I am at ease. I will try to stay out of unnecessary troubles when I can see them coming. If I can’t avoid them, I accept them as they are.

I try to stay away from social gossips and vain talks as much as possible.

I don’t need to be in the Ashrams or attend silent retreats to cut off from social life activities for me to observe silence, seclusion, self-contemplation, self-discipline, or to practice yoga and meditation, although occasionally I will spend some time in the Ashrams and the silent retreat centres. There’s no difference for me in my own practice, wherever I am, as the mind is being in the present following wherever the body goes.

x x x x x x x x x x

Before we moved to the first cement house in Pantai Cenang, I didn’t cook at all. My husband did all the cooking for the meals of our yoga retreats. I had started preparing food and cooking for our yoga retreats only after we moved into the cement house. This was possible after we had rented the cement house with bigger kitchen and dining hall, and we only used the wooden house as yoga studio for the retreats classes and activities. It’s also conveniently located very close to our yoga studio, where the retreat guests could easily walk to the cement house for meals after the sessions.

Before we had the cement house to prepare the meals separately from the yoga studio, my husband did the cooking as soon as the session finished while I sent the retreat guests back to their guesthouse, and then an hour later, I brought them back to the yoga studio to have meals with us. By having the kitchen in the cement house, I could do the cooking while my husband was teaching the session at the yoga studio, and meals would be ready by the time the session finished. The guests didn’t need to go back to their guesthouse and then come back again for meals wasting time in the commute.

I enjoyed very much preparing and cooking the food for our retreat guests. I had no idea how to cook or what to cook, but I was determined to try to learn to cook from watching you tube videos and getting recipes from the Internet. My husband was my food taster. It didn’t matter to me in the beginning the food tasted not so good. I kept trying to experiment cooking. Until my husband thought it was good enough, I started preparing and cooking the dishes for our yoga retreats.

Because I love eating Malaysian food, Chinese food and Thai food, I learned to cook a few dishes like Chinese style stir-fried different types of vegetables, vegetarian Thai green curry, vegetarian Nyonya sambal with tempe, Achar – vegetables pickles, boiled or mashed potato, vegetable soups, and pan fried or grilled mushrooms. Basically I didn’t have precise measurement for the ingredients that I used. That’s why they tasted slightly different every time when I cooked. During retreat rest time, my husband would prepare the chickpeas curry, vegetarian lasagna with tempe, hummus, tahini, condiment dressings for salads, homemade bread and a few other vegetable dishes that I didn’t know how to cook yet. I just needed to heat up those pre-cooked food and put the salads and bread on the table before the session finished. Marc is a very good cook. He had been cooking for a mountain refuge and a restaurant in France for a few years.

I am contented and grateful for the past and present living condition which was and is very conducive and convenient for me to practice yoga in the present moment.

All is impermanent.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yoga practice is not separated from yoga philosophy or everyday life...

Without yoga philosophy or yoga teachings and without life, there is no yoga practice... It is a contradiction when we say that we want to practice yoga but we do not want to practice the yoga philosophy or the teachings, or we can only practice yoga in yoga classes and retreats, but we cannot practice yoga in everyday life. As when we really practice yoga, we are actually practicing the yoga philosophy or the teachings practically in everyday life, as yoga practice is not just about doing some physical yoga exercises in yoga classes or retreats...

Even though some people practice yoga asana poses regularly by attending yoga classes for many years, and we can perform many of the complicated asana poses that require certain degrees of physical strength and flexibility, and our physical fitness level is at the peak level, it still doesn't guarantee us peace, compassion and wisdom. We still can be not free from impurities, ignorance, anger, hatred, jealousy, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, fear, worry, cravings, aversions, unhappiness, and doubts...

We (out of ignorance) might even think and believe that "To share or teach yoga, yoga teachers need to be qualified or certified by some recognized yoga affiliations. And as yoga teachers, they should be able to do all the yoga asana poses and know all their names in Sanskrit by hard, and they should be able to touch their head with their feet from behind..."

We judge and categorize a yoga teacher, yoga practitioner and the yoga practice (beginner, intermediate or advance level) based on the fitness level of physical strength and flexibility to perform the asana poses, or based on how many hours of yoga courses we had attended in the past...

Some people said that they only want to practice "yoga" but they don't agree with or cannot accept the yoga philosophy or teachings... What they actually mean is that they only want to do the yoga asana exercises as it makes them feel good, fit, strong and flexible, but they do not want to know anything about letting go of the ego, letting go of pride and arrogance, letting go of selfish desires and attachments, letting go of cravings and aversions, letting go of judgment and expectation, letting go of anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, fear and worry, and etc...

They are not interested at all to practice non-attachment, or to know about the mind, or to realize unconditional peace, selflessness or compassion. They say it is impossible to practice all these "philosophy" or teachings of yoga in their everyday life, living and working in the big city of the competitive modern world. They think these yoga philosophy or teachings can only be practiced in peaceful quiet environment where there is no external distraction, or disturbance, or tension, or stressful elements... There is nothing wrong with this type of thinking, as just by doing the physical exercise is already a very good pastime activity to improve our physical and mental health and fitness...

The main obstacle that contributes to this type of understanding is our own egoistic mind being not knowing or being unaware of the ignorance in the mind, due to ignorance (absence of wisdom)... Just like the eyes can only see what is in front of it, but it couldn't see itself. It can perceive objects, names and forms in front of it, but it couldn't perceive itself... It needs a mirror (reflection) to see itself. And this mirror, is awareness from the higher mind, to be aware of the ignorance in us, to be aware that there are impurities in our mind that hinder us from seeing the truth of things as it is, to be aware that it is our own mind being responsible for the happiness and unhappiness in us...

The one who thinks and believes that "It is not possible to practice yoga in everyday modern competitive hectic lifestyle and stressful working environment" or "Yoga can only be practiced in a yoga and meditation retreat centre with peaceful quiet environment away from all sorts of distractions, disturbance, tension and stressful elements", is our egoistic mind.

We (our mind) think and believe that there is an "I". We (the egoistic mind) think and believe that this body and this mind, and all its modifications (sensations, feelings, emotions, thinking, believes, personalities, characteristics, actions and reactions, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements, wants and don't wants, self-image, self-worth, self-esteem, and etc) belongs to "I", and they are who "I" am.

It's because of this wrong identification or incorrect understanding, we (the egoistic mind) have selfish intentions (good or bad intention) to motivate us to perform actions, we have selfish desires and attachments. From these selfish intentions, desires and attachments, we have expectations. We expect to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we like it to be (craving for something that we like and agree with), and expect not to receive the fruit of our actions the way that we don't like it to be (aversion towards something that we don't like and disagree with)...

From expectations, we have cravings and aversions. From cravings and aversions, we have fear, restlessness, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, disappointment, frustration, irritation, pride, arrogance, self-protection (something like "I'll kill you first before you kill me"). And all these impurities strengthen the ignorance... And ignorance strengthens the egoism... And egoism strengthens all the selfish intentions, desires and attachments, and thus strengthens expectation, cravings and aversions, and thus strengthens fear and all the other impurities, and so on...

When we say we cannot let go of the ego, it is actually our egoistic mind being reluctant to let go of its selfish desires and attachments. We do not want to let go of this "I", who we think what we are...

We do not want, or we have fear of letting go of the self-image that we have been building up for this "I" with such and such qualities that we would like us to be... We identify ourselves as "somebody" with all these qualities that we possess (qualities that we like and agree with) and don't possess (qualities that we don't like and disagree with).

We want to protect this self-image to the extend that we will say and do things that will hurt ourselves and other beings. We do not want this self-image to be damaged or stained by any external elements, such like judgments come from people whom we come in contact with, relationships status, friendships status, things, happenings, social status, career status, and etc, as we (the egoistic mind) depend on all these elements to support and compliment us for who we think what we are.

When we realize compassion that is free from (or by letting go of) attachments, craving and aversion, separateness, discrimination, selfish desires, possessiveness, judgment and expectation, we will be able to perform all our duties and responsibility at home, at work or in the society, without being affected or determined by our actions and the result of our actions, whether the actions are being performed for ourselves or for other beings, whether it is a job that is getting some pay, or it is a volunteering work without getting any pay. We are able to perform all actions without fear, without selfish intentions, desires and attachments, without possessiveness and expectation... There is no stress, tension, expectation, disappointment, as there is no such thing as success or failure when we renounce the fruit of actions... We do our best in everything we do, and we renounce from the fruit of our actions. We are not affected nor determined by the result of our actions, or other people's reactions towards our actions.

Compassion and friendliness is nothing to do with how many personal friends or good friends that we know and have, whom we can spend time with, to eat, to drink, to talk and to do things together (or how many friendships that we have been accumulating and possessed), or whether we have an active social lifestyle or not. It is being free from ill-will, or hatred, or discrimination, or judgment, or expectation, or fear towards any beings, even if some of the beings' thinking and behaviors are not what we like nor what we can agree with...

When we have selfish intentions, desires and attachments, cravings and aversions, expectations and fear, we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we like and agree with, as friends. And we will identify or categorize the people or beings whom we don't like and disagree with, as not friends (or as enemies)... These are friendships or social networks that are made under the influence of our selfish intentions, desires, attachments, cravings and aversions, likes and dislikes, discrimination, judgment, expectation and fear...

When we see a poisonous snake in front of us, out of fear and self-protection (by imagining, or anticipating, or expecting the snake is going to harm us), we might attack and hurt the snake first, even if the snake has no intention to harm us at all... This is selfishness and ignorance... This is absence of compassion and wisdom...

Yoga practice is in life. In our every moment of existence.

Om shanti.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Yoga (Asana) classes?

One of the yoga students requested the yoga teacher to give a "gentle" yoga asana session this morning, as after a few days of continuous yoga asana practice, the physical body was experiencing discomfortable sensations like muscular fatigue, tightness and soreness.

This was the teaching in the class today.

This is what yoga practice is about. It is being aware of the reality of the present moment now as it is, and accepting the reality as it is, without generate craving or aversion towards the pleasant or unpleasant experiences. This physical body is now experiencing discomfortable sensations coming from a few days of yoga asana practice, is actually a great opportunity for us to learn how to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it's not necessarily the way that we would like it to be, or the way that we think how it should be. As well as we are learning, experiencing, observing and accepting about the truth that everything is impermanent. It doesn't matter they are pleasant or unpleasant sensations, thoughts, conditions or feelings, they all are impermanent.

The yoga asana class is just being what it is. It is neither an intense session nor a gentle session. In the same yoga asana class, there are some students might be very fit, strong and flexible physically, and some others might be less fit, less strong and less flexible. Those who have stronger physical condition and are familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say that this yoga asana session is an easy and gentle session (for them). While the others who have poorer physical condition and are not so familiar with the yoga asana poses and exercises, they will say that this yoga asana session is a difficult and intense session (for them). But the yoga asana poses and exercises in the yoga asana classes have no qualities or intentions to be something easy or difficult, gentle or intense. The yoga asana class is neither a beginner level nor advance level class. When our body can do it and feel pleasantness, our mind will judge "it's easy", while when our body encounters unpleasantness and cannot do it (yet), our mind will judge "it's difficult". The same exercises everyone is doing, some will say it's easy, and some will say it's difficult, but the exercises themselves have no quality or intention to be something easy or difficult.

Yoga, or peace and compassion, is not determined by how strong and flexible we are to perform the yoga asana poses, neither it is about how perfect we can perform the asana poses, or how good we look and feel during and after performing the asana poses or exercises, or whether we can perform all the yoga asana poses easily, or not.

Performing the yoga asana poses and exercises in a yoga class is not about trying to attain good feelings or pleasant sensations, or to avoid unpleasant sensations. It is not about "I only want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I like to do that make me feel good, and I don't want to do the yoga poses and exercises that I don't like to do, that make me feel tired and sore later," or "I only want to do the exercises that will make my body feels comfortable, and I don't want to do any exercises that will make my body feels uncomfortable."

Yoga asana practice in the yoga classes is for us to find out what is the ego and how to be free from the ego, or how to let go of the ego. It is for us to practice non-attachment or letting go of attachment. It is for us to practice letting go of the identification with the body and mind. It is about letting go of craving and clinging onto the objects or conditions that we like and agree with, and letting go of aversion towards the objects or conditions that we don't like and disagree with.

Yoga asana practice and the exercises are for us to purify the mind, to remove impurities, to balance the mind, to calm the mind, to silent the mind, and to channel or direct the mind attention to contemplate on the Truth of things, names and forms, and to inquire who am "I". It is to eliminate ignorance to know the Truth. During the yoga asana class, we are limiting or restricting our thoughts, physical activities and speech by focusing on learning and performing the exercises and yoga poses. Most of the yoga poses request great amount of concentration being in the present moment, and letting go of fear, for us to be able to do it. And during this period of time, our body and mind is being busy engaging in performing wholesome yoga asana exercises, and not engaging in unwholesome thinking, physical activities and speech.

Attending yoga (asana) classes is not about expecting the teacher to give us something that we prefer, or what we would like it to be, or what we can agree with. It is about learning to be open-minded to adapt and accommodate the exercises that we are not familiar with, and to adjust ourselves into any types of exercises while knowing our own physical limitations, and we just do our best without forcing, or trying to challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations. We don't have to force ourselves to perform all the exercises in the yoga class. We don't have to look like other people in the yoga class, or be like the yoga teacher when we perform the asana poses, as we all have a different body and having different physical limitations. We should know when to take some rest and when to continue practice. We should know whether it is the ego rejects to continue the practice, or it is the physical body has come to its limitations and it needs to take some rest. We learn to become our own teacher and take full responsibility for looking after the well-being of our body and mind.

We learn to forbear or withstand certain amount of physical "discomforts" coming from performing the yoga exercises (this discomfortable sensation is not the same as the sharp painful sensation coming from muscular tendon injuries due to pushing our body beyond its limitations, which is an alarm warning us that we should not go beyond that limitation), and allowing the physical body to improve the skill, stamina, strength and flexibility gradually as we practice regularly. Allowing the physical body to continue to practice the exercises that it doesn't familiar with, until it can adjust and adapt into all these yoga exercises effortlessly.

Unless the physical body is experiencing or suffering from certain injuries or illness, then we should allow the physical body to take some rest, and avoid performing certain physical activities that will stimulate or exaggerate the injuries or illness. In order to improve physical fitness level, we need to "push" the physical body to its maximum limits, but not beyond its limitations, so that we can train the body to become skillful, fitter, stronger and more flexible without injuring it.

In the beginning of our yoga asana practice, it is normal that our body will feel discomfort, struggle, tiredness and soreness from time to time, as the physical body needs regular practice to adjust and adapt into the physical activities that it doesn't familiar with, and it needs to take sufficient rest in between practices. Then only the physical body can improve its overall fitness level with continuous regular practice. Eventually as we continue performing the exercises while enduring some discomfort sensations due to the unfamiliar physical activities, the skill, stamina, strength and flexibility will improve, and all these muscular fatigue, tightness and soreness will become less and less. Our body will develop stronger endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility.
There's nothing wrong if we only want to do some easy exercises within our comfort zone, and don't want to experience any muscular fatigue, tightness and soreness, or discomfortable sensations at all, but then the body won't be getting the required stress endurance training that is essential for developing certain skill, stamina, strength and flexibility. Although peace and compassion has nothing to do with the over-all physical fitness level to perform the yoga asana practice, but the mental endurance, strength and flexibility that can be developed while dealing with the effects of the regular yoga asana practice, will help the mind to move forward on the path of yoga during challenging times.

This practice of non-attachment is not just being observed or practiced in the yoga classes while performing the yoga exercises, but it is every moment in our heart, in our life, we are practicing non-attachment. We learn to accept the reality of the present moment now as it is, even though it is not what we would like it to be. We accommodate the discomfortable or difficult situations and conditions. It is not about trying to change the situations and conditions that we don't like, into something that we like it, to accommodate us, but we are able to make adjustment and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable or difficult conditions and situations. When we experience some discomfortable situations or difficult conditions in life, we do not and cannot ask life to be easy and gentle on us. Instead, we accept the reality as it is, make necessary adjustment, and adapt ourselves into any discomfortable or difficult conditions and situations, and accommodate the present conditions and situations that we don't like or disagree with, that is unpleasant, in peace.

This is the inner strength and flexibility that we want to develop in our yoga practice while performing the yoga asana exercises. It is about life. It is not just about attending a yoga class performing some yoga asana poses, and telling ourselves and other people that we are practicing yoga, or we have done our yoga practice everyday, but then in life, we attached onto the body and mind, over-powered by the ego, and we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined by the desire of craving and aversion towards the situations and conditions that we like and dislike, agree and disagree with. It is about being able to be undisturbed, unaffected, uninfluenced or undetermined by the qualities of names and forms that our mind perceives through the senses of what we see, hear, smell, taste, touch,feel and think, without generating craving and aversion. It is knowing and accepting the truth of things as they are. Knowing that everything is just what they are. They are not something good or bad, positive or negative, happy or suffering, meaningful or meaningless.

Compassion is not just about performing some good and kind actions in the world. It is about accepting the reality as it is, and accepting everything and everyone as they are. There is no fear, no worry, no anger, no hatred, no greed, no dissatisfaction, no selfish desires, no selfish expectation, no discrimination towards all the different qualities of names and forms, no preferences of likes and dislikes, no attachment towards the qualities of names and forms, no jealousy, no possessiveness, no pride, no arrogance, no disappointment, no criticism, no condemn, no attachment towards the actions and the result of the actions, and so on. It is realizing what is non-duality, namelessness, formlessness, attributelessness, oneness, non-separateness, and being free from dissatisfaction, restlessness, unpeacefulness or suffering deriving from ignorance.

In the process of learning and trying to perform the yoga practice and yoga asana poses or exercises in the yoga classes, we are actually developing inner strength and inner flexibility. These are the qualities that will allow us to realize unconditional peace and compassion, that will free us from ignorance, doubts, impurities, restlessness, dissatisfaction, anger, hatred, disappointment, fear, worry, unhappiness or suffering.

The physical stamina, strength and flexibility are just a side product coming from performing the yoga exercises regularly. It is not the main purpose of performing the yoga practice.

We should be developing patience, perseverance, determination, will-power, forbearance, withstand, acceptance, tolerance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness, courage, observation, mindfulness, awareness, thoughtfulness, humility, concentration, being in the present moment, one-pointedness, self-discipline, self-control, non-judgment, non-comparison, non-expectation, non-identification, non-attachment and letting go of the ego, during the process of learning and practicing the yoga asana poses, breathing exercises, chanting, studying or contemplating on the yoga teachings, selfless service, restraining the senses from going out chasing after the objects of the senses, concentration exercises, and meditation practice.

These qualities act as a medium, or a tool, or an instrument for us to render the mind calm and pure, preparing the mind for meditation, or self-inquiry, or contemplation upon the Truth, to realize the nature of names and forms of selflessness and impermanence, and realizing unconditional peace and compassion.

Without these qualities, it is not easy for us to realize peace and compassion, as we will be easily be annoyed, frustrated, irritated, angry, disappointed or hurt by the perceived names and forms or the objects of the senses that we don't like and disagree with. There is no peace, as we are constantly being affected, disturbed, influenced, determined or over-powered by all the impurities that arise in the mind coming from the egoistic reactions of the ignorant mind towards what it perceives through the senses, from moment to moment.

When we hear the yoga teachings about "Go beyond the physical body", it doesn't mean that we challenge our physical body to go beyond its limitations to make it stronger and more flexible than what it is now, but it is about going beyond the attachment or identification with the physical body. Let go of the identification with the impermanent conditions and abilities of the physical body as "I". By making the body stronger and more flexible, or being able to perform many asana poses, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion. Peace and compassion doesn't come from being physically strong and flexible.

Being a "vegetarian" or "non-vegetarian", is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Being a good person or bad person, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Performing good actions or bad actions, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Being highly educated or have limited education, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Being artistic or not, creative or not, intelligent or not, is also not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Having good conditions or bad conditions in life, is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Having a good physical health condition or poor physical health condition is not a guarantee of peace and compassion.

Peace and compassion is there as it is, upon the annihilation of ignorance and egoism. It is realizing the Truth of names and forms where everything is selfless and impermanent, and realizing namelessness, formlessness, attributelessness, non-duality, oneness, or non-separateness beyond all the different names and forms.

Yoga is not about being positive or optimistic. It is about not attached towards the qualities of names and forms, or to go beyond what our minds think and believe is positive and negative, happiness and suffering, good and bad, meaningfulness and meaninglessness. All these qualities are not the truth of what things really are. Everything is just what it is. They have no qualities or intentions to be good or bad, positive or negative, happiness or suffering, meaningful or meaningless. All these "qualities" are coming from our own minds projecting onto the names and forms to be what our minds want to believe what things are.

And so, allowing the teacher to teach whatever the teacher wants to teach in the yoga (asana) class, without expecting the yoga class to be something that we prefer or what we would like it to be. But we make adjustment, and adapt ourselves into the practice that are new to us, or being different from what we familiar with. In the same session, some students will prefer more gentle form of exercises, and some will prefer more intense form of exercises, even if the class is stated as "gentle yoga class" or "intense yoga class". As we all have different expectation or projection towards what type of gentleness is "gentle" and what is not, or what type of intensity is "intense" and what is not. A gentle class can be too gentle for certain people or might not be gentle enough for some other people. An intense class can be too intense for certain people or might not be intense enough for some other people. Everyone has different types of physical stamina, strength and flexibility, different types of physical limitations, and different types of likes and dislikes towards certain asana poses or exercises. And all these names and forms are impermanent. Every day it's different. Every moment it's different.

The physical exercises and the effects that come from attending yoga (asana) classes are for the mind to be aware of the ego, and not to be influenced by the desire of craving and aversion that comes from the ego, until the mind is free from the egoistic desire of craving and aversion.

Om shanti.

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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.

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