be free, be happy, be peaceful

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Unconditional peace and compassion doesn't mean silence towards abusive behaviors

Compassion doesn't mean that the mind is being silent and accommodating towards all kinds of abusive behaviors in the world inflicted upon oneself and/or others, encouraging and empowering all kinds of ignorant abusive behaviors. Having unconditional peace in oneself doesn't mean that one doesn't perform any actions or doesn't react towards all kinds of ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in the world.

Unconditional peace and compassion is there as it is, while the mind is being aware of all kinds of agreeable and disagreeable names and forms, actions, behaviors and events in the world, without being determined or disturbed by all those names and forms, and there are necessary actions being performed selflessly out of compassion, but the mind is not being determined or disturbed by actions and the fruit of actions, being free from attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation.

One can be shouting loudly for certain reason, but the unconditional peace is undetermined and undisturbed by the action of shouting and the result of shouting. The mind is peaceful as it is regardless of actions and reactions arising and passing away, as there's no attachment or identification towards the actions or the fruit of actions.

A peaceful being might be behaving like a mad man from the appearance while living in this world of many kinds of madness, but the mind is ever clear and calm, void of egoistic attachment and identification.

While performing actions being busy with many duties and responsibilities, and dealing with desirable and undesirable events in life, the mind is not being determined by the actions, the fruit of actions, and the presence and absence of desirable and undesirable events, and that's unconditional peace amid all kinds of ups and downs in life. 'Peace' that comes and goes, that is being determined by action and inaction, the fruit of action and inaction, as well as the presence and absence of desirable and undesirable events in life, is just a conditional momentary fleeting sense of satisfaction, contentment, goodness and meaningfulness.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

My life stories - Part 16 (Finding a living space)

My life Stories – Part 16 (Finding a living space)
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

(Updated in end of April)

From the beginning, we knew that it will be challenging for moving to another country starting a new life. We just do our best to do whatever we need to do, and let things fall into places as they are, at their own pace. While waiting for things to happen as they are after we did our best, there are certain difficulties that people need to go through due to the imperfect system created by human beings that are mostly unnecessary.

The longer we are here, the more glad and grateful we are for being here at the moment, despite of the inevitable difficulties. We love the region, the calmness, the people, the food, the architectures, the historical aspects, the well-developed infrastructure, the rubbish management, the nature, the seasonal climate, the democracy, the freedom of being and the freedom of expression.

I enjoy hearing people speaking in French even though I don't really know what people are talking about. Even though I don't mind that I am not interacting with anyone or if I am not being understood by others, I am still learning a little bit of French here and there, without forcing myself that I have to be able to speak fluent French within how many days/months/years. I have no difficulty for being at somewhere that I don't speak their language. Being kind and understanding towards others' imperfection, and respecting all the differences among the diversities, without interference towards others for being who and what they are, as well as having awareness and self-control not to cause unnecessary damages and inconveniences to others, is nothing to do with being able to be understanding and interacting with others in a specific language, or not. People who speak the same language might not necessary be kind and understanding towards each other.

Since we arrived in France, we have been 'living' in the hotel. No doubt that it's a very good and comfortable spacious room, a lot bigger than many apartments in France, but it's not an ideal permanent space for living. Even before we left Malaysia, my husband's manager already told him that it's very difficult to get an apartment for long term rental in France for those who are actually living and working here, especially in this area where property prices and rents are a lot more expensive than some other regions in France due to the high demand and low supply mainly because of the tourism industry as well as many French people who work near the border in Switzerland prefer to live in France as cost of living in Switzerland is a lot more expensive than in France, but then this also causes the rental apartments near the border in France went up higher as these people can afford higher rents than those who are actually living and working in France. Already there were few people telling us that we should work in Switzerland, as people who speak multiple languages are in high demand in Switzerland, and the pay is almost triple than in France doing the same work. Many apartments here are either catering for those who work in Switzerland or being converted into higher profit holiday rentals to yield higher profit. It's a place for people owning one or a few private holiday homes that sit empty most of the time.

It's quite a challenge for us to find a long term place to rent here based on what we can afford and the eligibility. It's not that difficult if people have a higher capacity and budget where they can rent any apartment that they like. It's also not so much of a problem if people have lower income, provided if they have been living in France for more than two years, because by then they are eligible to be getting special social housing rentals under the government's policy that looks after the welfare of the people more than some other countries' corrupted government that are not about looking after the people at all. My husband has some ongoing dental problems and had to pay a visit to the dentist some time ago, and this is covered by the social security health insurance. While living in Malaysia we had spent thousands of ringgit for several dental visits.

It's just rather difficult for people who have just arrived in France, starting a new job and have a rather low salary, to be looking for a living place to rent, as getting a long term rental in France is restricted by some obligated conditions, such as the need of showing past three months payslip in France, as well as one can only be eligible to rent a place where the rental is not more than one third of the salary. And hence, people can only be staying in a hotel or renting an AIRBNB for the first few months, which of cause is a lot more expensive than what people would like it to be.

We are grateful and thankful that the hotel management is being very thoughtful for addressing this 'difficulty' that all of their new employees who come from everywhere in the world have to go through, where they arrange free accommodation in the hotel for up to three months, allowing the new employees to take the required time to find their own space of living so that they don't need to worry too much on that issue while diverting their energy and attention onto their new job at a new environment.

Although long term rentals in France is still considered cheaper than in many other European countries, but due to the high demand and low supply, especially in certain areas that economically relying on tourism a lot, where many apartments are being operated as AIRBNB for higher profit, and the basic salary is struggling to catch up with the higher cost of living, quite many people who have lower income are having great difficulty finding a 'decent' long term rental at an affordable rate. Even so, it's still affordable for us to live in France than in Ireland, as we won't be able to afford to live in Ireland at all, even if my husband has a job there. The rental is at least doubled for the similar type of property and everything cost more expensive in Ireland, where the basic salary is not inline with the cost of living. Things will be more costly everywhere in the world now due to the ridiculous 'wars' on top of the long term side-effects of the prolonged pandemic.

The available long term rentals with cheaper rent are those that are not very well maintained apartments in some old buildings that consume higher rate of electricity usage and gas emission, which people try to avoid nowadays.

Even if some people might have some additional savings that allow them to rent a bigger and better place with higher rental, but it's not possible because they are being restricted by the income status on the monthly payslips, even when they propose to pay a full year rent in advance. On another side, they are also not eligible for getting certain rentals that are being reserved for social housing since they are living and working in France for less than two years.

It means that people are 'stuck' in such situation during the first two years living and working in France, as they couldn't find a 'reasonable' place to rent because of the low monthly income status and they are not qualified for applying social housing yet, or they can only be able to rent one of the unmaintained old apartments that required higher expenses on consuming electricity and gas, which is not economical and environmental friendly. Even when we went to the social welfare department in town asking for help in finding affordable rental apartment, they also said to us that they knew about this 'difficulty' that many French people and foreigners are facing, but that's the way it is, and there's nothing that they can do to help. They said that the earliest time that people can rent a social housing apartment is two years after initial application.

We have been trying to look for an apartment where we would prefer it's just a short walking distance from the hotel so that my husband doesn't need to waste too much time and energy on commuting between home and work place. If the apartment is not within feasible walking distance, we would need to spend more money on getting a car as well as bearing the additional expenses of having a car, which we try to avoid. Public transportation is available here conveniently, but the fixed schedule isn't suitable for my husband as he is working in the night shift. We also try to find an apartment that has a separate bedroom, so that my husband can have a good rest after work. However, I try to coordinate with my husband's sleeping hours, so that I won't create too much disturbance for him while we are 'living' in a hotel room at the moment, or if we will be living in a studio apartment without separate bedroom.

In the beginning, we have tried to request to view some of the available apartments that are within our budget, but, many of the agents didn't even bother to get back to us after we sent them the details of our situation as new arrivals in France, as we wouldn't be eligible to rent anything here, even if we have the money because we don't have the past three months payslip in France yet.

And then, one of the agents didn't mind about the availability of the past three months payslip condition, and showed us one of the apartment, which 'sorts of' fit into our budget and certain requirement, however, it's in an old apartment building that is not very well maintained, as well as it doesn't have very good natural light or privacy as all the residents within this building will be passing by the apartment's window as they are coming back and going out, and more importantly, it feels 'depressing' when we were inside the apartment even though the interior renovation and equipment is rather 'new' and 'tidy'. Another thing to be considered is that whether the immediate neighbours are open minded and thoughtful for others who are sharing the same apartment building, or not. From looking at the common area of the building, we could see that it might not be the suitable place to live a simple quiet life.

After that, we found another apartment where the direct owner allowed us to view the apartment, and it was slightly cheaper than the previous one, but again, it feels 'depressing' while being in that space that also doesn't have enough natural light, where we would need to turn on the lights even during the sunny day, as it is shielded from the sunlight due to the proximate surrounding apartment buildings. The owner also mentioned that she is 'worried' that we might not be able to pay the rent, as it is more than one third of my husband's salary, even when we told her that we live a low cost simple way of life. There's another thing to be considered is about the safety features. Many of these walk-up multi level old apartments can only be accessible via a narrow wooden staircase. It will be difficult if there's a fire starting from the lower apartment. There's no way out. And because it is located on a touristy pedestrian street as well as there are restaurants and shops under and around the apartment, it means that there will be people on the street talking and smoking especially during the day time when my husband needs to sleep after work. If so, we can't really open the windows to have fresh air into the apartment.

We also visited four other apartments dealing with direct owners. One of them is a fully furnished one room worn-out apartment on the top floor of a 4 storey walk-up old apartment building that isn't being maintained at all. The apartment's wooden flooring is moving and making lots of noise whenever there's a movement. The rent is on the higher end too. While another one is an unfurnished and unequipped but recently renovated with some modern features one plus one room apartment on the third floor. However, it has a low ceiling and doesn't have good air ventilation. The rent is not cheap too. The other two apartments are also in a depressing state that in need of immediate attention and refreshment. Obviously they all are unsuitable for us. We don't mind paying higher rent if it's a good quality apartment in good health, but these apartments don't worth the high rent.

And then there are other nicer and newer apartments further away from the busy town area that we are interested to check them out, and the rents are within our budget, but my husband's salary isn't eligible for renting any of them, unless we have a guarantor. There are some social housing apartments available for rent but then we needed to wait after two full years of living and paying tax in France to be qualified for it.

After many considerations and discussions between my husband and I, we decided to just try to get whatever is available to us, such as getting a basic unfurnished/unequipped apartment, either with or without separate bedroom, but at least well-maintained and cheerful enough, that is healthy to live in, even if we have to spend more money on buying our own furniture/equipment and buying a car.

Luckily after nearly 2 months of apartment hunting, we finally found a place that we can actually live in. Although it's only a tiny studio apartment that doesn't have a separate bedroom which is one important criteria for my husband, but, it's almost fully furnished and well-equipped with daily life essentials. It's a space full of 'history and character' and it meets most of our requirements for a living space, even if it's just for the first year. We don't need a 'big' space as we don't have many things. While I just need a clean, bright, well-ventilated and quiet space that is big enough for me to do some yoga exercises. Although just by being there for a few minutes might be very different experience from when we are actually living in it.

This tiny apartment is inside a well-maintained historical building. Even though it's only about 20 square meters, about one third of the size of the hotel junior suite room, but it's not depressing or congested at all, as it has a high ceiling and was well renovated under a very thoughtful and practical design with good quality of materials, where we can actually live there comfortably. The two windows are south facing without any blockage from the opposite apartment buildings that are located distance enough, which means that we will be getting the sun light coming into the apartment for a couple of hours all year long. It's bright enough even during cloudy days, as it was a cloudy day when we visited the apartment. It has a very thick wall, which means that it will not be too hot in the summer. The best thing is that, the two windows are over-looking at the very secluded private courtyard with a very peaceful garden, which we are able to access anytime even though we don't have a balcony. Although the windows are outdated and needed to be replaced with better insulated windows, and they said that it will be replaced a few months later after we moved in and before the next winter. Surely, it will cause some inconvenience for us during the installation, but it has to be done for long term economical and environmental reason. Another great thing is that the apartment is also less than 350 meters away, about 5 minutes walk, from the hotel.

The only downside is that it has no separate bedroom, but it's okay, as it has everything else that we are looking for to live a simple quiet life. The toilet, the shower, the wash basin and drainage, the cooker top and hob, the work surface, the fridge, the washing machine, the bed frame, the storage system, the lighting, the outside hallway and entrance, the public space, and the little details of a practical living space, are all good enough. The overall soundproof is good enough as we didn't hear any noise while being in the apartment even when there's renovation going on in some other apartments within the building at that time. However, the walls between the different apartments on the same level are not completely soundproof, but it's still good enough though. There's enough space for me to do some yoga practice. It's also within our budget and my husband's salary is eligible for it. The agent was also welcoming, and apparently, he had been travelling to Langkawi and Penang right before the pandemic.

Even though the apartment building is located beside a busy main road and surrounded by side streets, but this particular apartment is facing the inner courtyard away from the noise of the busy road and streets. We can open the windows for fresh air at anytime. However, what we didn't know at that time was that during the warmer months, there are lots of activities and noises coming from people hanging out and chitchatting in front of the supermarket next to the apartment building. Unlike the other bigger apartments that we have visited before, where we have doubt of 'maybe yes and maybe no', we both spontaneously like and agree with this one, even after a few days to think about it. We immediately said 'Yes' to the agent after seeing it.

Finally, we moved into this apartment on the second week of April after getting the first phase of the legal procedure and paper works done. In France, just like in many other countries, there are many complicated procedures that everyone need to go through for living here. Being a tourist is a lot easier than being a resident in any countries nowadays. It doesn't have to be like that, but unfortunately, it is the reality for existing in this tiny space of the vast universe due to the human minds are functioning under the influence of ignorance and egoism that generate many unnecessary complications, instead of simplifying everything.

It will take some time for us to be settling in as we still need to get certain essential things like bedding, cooking, dining and cleaning utensils, as well as some other 'equipment' for organizing certain things for more efficiency and convenience to be living in our new little 'temporary' home. Anywhere that we live, either in a self-owned property or in a rented space, is just a temporary living space, just as everything that are existing in this space of the universe is temporary.

We are glad to have found this place in the end, or the place has been waiting for us to come.

After a few weeks of living in this tiny apartment, we feel more and more comfortable living in this space after making some adjustment and accommodation among the two of us for living in a 20 square meter space after having living in much bigger space in the past. It's not just that the inside space of the apartment is comfortable enough, especially it's just for temporary stay while we take our time to look for another apartment that is more suitable for longer stay, but the entire experience of coming home stepping into a well-maintained building with a long time history, is something that we have never experience before, and the common area of the apartment building is actually more spacious and comfortable than the apartment itself.

Thank you.


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Want to learn and practice yoga?

The yoga practice that leads to self-inquiry and self-realization towards the truth of impermanence and selflessness in all the names and forms, enabling the mind to be in peace amidst ceaseless changes of the body and mind, and in all the names and forms that the mind perceives through the senses, and hence, allowing the mind to realize/unveil unconditional peace, transcending all the selfless impermanent changes.

The well-trained mind is free from egoistic attachment, identification, desire of craving and aversion, judgment, comparison and expectation, allowing the perceived reality being what it is, as it is, and respecting all the impermanent changes of the body and mind and whatever the mind perceives or experiences as they are, regardless of whether the changes are desirable or undesirable, pleasant or unpleasant, agreeable or disagreeable.

In order to realize unconditional peace, the mind needs to know what is conditional and unconditional peace, by inquiring or investigating towards the root cause of 'unrest', 'disturbance', 'dissatisfaction', 'unhappiness', 'doubt', 'fear', 'worry', 'insecurity', or what give rise to the state of 'peacelessness'.

The entire process of learning and practicing yoga, is indeed about developing non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation.

Upon the annihilation of all these egoistic defilement within the modification of the mind, unconditional peace that is unconditioned by selfless impermanent changes, is unveiled. This 'peace' is always there, as it is, never increase nor decrease, but it's whether the mind is free or not free from egoism and ignorance.

'Peace as it is' doesn't mean that there's no perception of names and forms, or changes, or activities within the mind, but the perceptive cognitive thinking mind has gone beyond itself, or the modification of the mind, and is aware of the selfless perception of names and forms as well as all the impermanent changes, without being determined by the selfless impermanent modification of the mind itself.

The mind 'experiences' or 'perceives' unrest or the state of peacelessness, is due to there's grasping or attachment arise towards the perceived names and forms as well as the selfless impermanent changes, and there's desire of craving and aversion towards 'controlling' or 'changing' the perceived reality that the mind likes and doesn't like, agrees and disagrees with, and desires and doesn't desire.

Due to ignorance, there's an individual identity of 'I', that doesn't really exists, but sort of existing in the form of a continuous stream of the ceaseless thought currents, which then unwittingly attaching onto and identifying with the different qualities of names and forms that are selfless and impermanent, that also gives rise to boundless desires that are awaiting to be gratified, and hence, gives rise to 'unrest', 'disturbance', 'dissatisfaction', 'unhappiness', 'doubt', 'fear', 'worry', 'insecurity', or what give rise to the state of 'peacelessness' from within the modification of the mind.

It's very simple.

Attachment/identification (passion) => unrest, or conditional peace/happiness/satisfaction/meaningfulness, being determined by the selfless impermanent changes of good and bad qualities, of pleasantness and unpleasantness, by coming in contact with desirable and undesirable conditions/situations/experiences, or by the gratification and non-gratification of desires.

Void of attachment/identification (dispassion) => unconditional peace, void of desires of craving and aversion, undetermined by the selfless impermanent changes of good and bad qualities, of pleasantness and unpleasantness, of desirable and undesirable conditions/situations/experiences.

However, most egoistic minds encounter extreme difficulty towards comprehending and developing dispassion or the void of attachment/identification, because the minds are being conditioned deeply by all kinds of worldly passionate egoistic social/cultural/community/religious/spiritual/political thinking, beliefs, values and practice that are under the influence of survival instinct, which propagate "Promoting attachment and identification in order to gain maximum support/power/control to protect/preserve/expand 'our' belief and values, creating 'our' world that we desire, that we think and believe how it should be. Anything and anyone that are different from 'us' and are not inline with 'our' belief and values, are 'the annoying obstacles' towards achieving 'our' world that we desire."

'Dispassion' is the essential teaching and practice of yoga and Buddhism towards inner peace and world peace, that leads to oneness/non-separateness/accommodation among all diversities that are selfless and impermanent, however, it's being recognized by the worldly passionate egoistic minds as something 'negative', 'wrong', 'bad', 'insanity', 'selfishness', 'harsh', 'cold', 'inappropriate', 'meaningless', 'unfriendly', 'backward', 'regressive', and etc.

And hence, all kinds of different yoga practice, breathing exercises, diet restriction, worldly interactive and connective activity restriction, observations, concentration and meditation practice are there, to help the yoga practitioners to develop dispassion through non-attachment, non-identification, non-craving, non-aversion, non-judgment, non-comparison and non-expectation, to purify, discipline and quiet the modification of the mind, to perform self-inquiry, to transcend the modification of the mind, to annihilate egoism and ignorance from the contaminated thinking/acting/reacting mind, to realize/unveil unconditional peace, which is the uncontaminated state of the mind itself void of egoism and ignorance.

It's just ceaseless names and forms arising and passing away, selflessly, including the modification of the mind.

It's not about influencing, changing or controlling the names and forms in the world to be or not to be in certain way, to gratified the egoistic desires of craving and aversion, to make everything to be the way that 'I' think and believe how it should be, but it's about purifying, disciplining, quieting and transcending the modification of the impure ignorant egoistic mind itself.

Those who cannot comprehend this, or don't want this, but believing in promoting passionate 'connection', 'creation', 'action' and 'power' to either 'influence', 'create' or 'control' the names and forms in the world to be the way that they think how it should be, the way that they like it to be, while 'blaming' and 'hating' others for their own dissatisfaction and unhappiness due to non-gratified boundless passionate desires and aspirations, that's their freedom.

Everyone have their own favorite colour that they like and agree with, and it's okay. There's nothing wrong if everyone keep their favorite colour to themselves, without forcing others to also like and agree with their favorite colour, while respecting others to have their own different favorite colour, without trying to make or control the world to be in their own particular favorite colour only. That is truly 'unity for world peace' by respecting the different diversities. The world will be peaceful as it is.

Or else, everyone try to interfere with/convert/change/control/force one another to also like and agree with their particular favorite colour, while not respecting others to have their own different favorite colour, and very passionately trying to make the world to only have their own particular favorite colour while not allowing any other colour that they don't like and disagree with to be existing in the world, thinking and believing in that is what 'unity for world peace' is about, by oppressing and eliminating diversity, and hence, that is what happening in the world, where wars, discrimination and hatred are still happening even in the era of so called advanced science and technology, destroying peace and harmony, nature, lives, things and properties, in order to create 'my/our' world the way that 'I/we' desire it to be.

Yoga is not about learning and practicing some yoga asana, breathing and cleansing exercises, or chanting, rituals and prayers, or vegetarianism and positive thinking, or concentration and meditation practice under particular style and brand, to attain some momentary physical and mental benefits or spiritual healing. But through different kinds of practice, freeing the mind from ignorance and the by-products of ignorance. It's not even trying to achieve world peace, but by attaining liberation from ignorance, there will be less ignorance and the consequences of ignorance in the world.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha - The Dhamma will be manipulated and eventually disappeared. Let it be.

Swami Sivananda - Do not hoard disciple. Do not build ashram. Do not mix.

Those who don't know, will perceive these teachings as a form of non-appreciation, selfishness, negativity, backward or regression. That's their freedom of thinking.

Only those who know, can truly understand the greatness of these teachings, which is not about non-appreciation towards 'The Dhamma' or 'The lineage'. It's indeed great compassion towards oneself and others.

Inquire the truth of everything.

Be free.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Learn how to love oneself selflessly before anything else

Love that comes with attachment, craving and expectation will only bring pain to oneself and those whom one thinks one loves very much, but not really.

Love that is free from attachment, craving and expectation will bring peace to oneself, regardless of whether others love oneself, or not.

Only those who know how to love oneself selflessly, know how to love others selflessly.

Only those who are free from attachment, craving and expectation towards oneself, know how to love others without attachment, craving and expectation.

Those who love oneself and others selflessly don't need to receive love, acceptance, acknowledgement, appreciation and companionship from others to feel good and meaningful about oneself and everything. They don't need others to love them for them to love others.

They love themselves and others as they are.

Those who don't know how to love oneself will try to do many things in order to please others, with craving and expectation towards giving and receiving love, acceptance, acknowledgement, appreciation and companionship to and from others, in order to feel good and meaningful about oneself and everything. But then one will feel bad and meaningless about oneself and everything when all these names and forms are absent.

Those who know how to love oneself and others selflessly maybe doing many things for oneself and others, but it's not about pleasing oneself and others, so that oneself and others will feel good and meaningful through giving and receiving love, acceptance, acknowledgement, appreciation and companionship among one another.

This is the yoga practice, to realize selfless loving kindness beyond chemistry influenced conditional passionate sensual feelings of love.

Those who know this, are free.

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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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Inquire the truth of everything.

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