The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tan Kheng Hua Refuses To Be Caged

There's a lovely little snippet on the Hallmark channel featuring Singaporean actress, Tan Kheng Hua (better known as Margaret Phua in Phua Chu Kang). Her latest film, Cages, will be screened on the same channel soon, which makes the snippet a subtle promotional piece. But what makes it delightfully subtle is the fact that she only mentions the movie in one sentence and spends the rest of the three minute piece sharing insights from her recent midlife crisis.

Kheng recalls hitting 40 and feeling like a raft in the Atlantic. But instead of paddling frantically in any direction hoping that it would lead to an unseen shore, or flinging herself dramatically onto a therapist's couch, she did the bravest thing possible - nothing.

"So I said to myself, Kheng, since you don’t know what you want why not not do anything at all."

I was busy replying an email and listening with only one ear pricked, but that line -uttered with such firmness - whipped my head around. And I felt a sigh of relief escape from within me.

While stumbling through my tunnel, I sometimes felt I couldn't do anything at all. I didn't WANT to do anything at all! There were too many raging thoughts and emotions and all I wanted to do was step back and let them calm down. Yet when I did that, I felt guilty at my 'passiveness'. I should be doing something, I thought. Anything! I felt I was being a coward by being still. And there were friends who also felt the same way.

Why aren't you doing anything, they cried. You can't expect things to just work themselves out. You have to do something!

But each time I succumbed, I messed up. So I finally decided to sit with my guilt and do nothing. And that's when I found out that both my well-meaning friends and I were absolutely wrong. Things do work themselves out when you stop trying to control them. They may not work out in the way you want them to, but they will work out in a way that's best for you.

"My friend put it succintly when he said, you're creating white space in your life. In hindsight, I realised I was allowing new things to happen, in a large sense I was allowing change to happen in my life."

I want to meet this woman and shake her hand.

"II think a midlife crisis is a way of pushing us to live our lives better, fuller...Only through the discovery of what else you can be and how else you can contribute can we make our lives the lives of other people around us more complete."

Kheng's monologue glows with quiet strength and serenity. I now keep the TV tuned to the Hallmark channel, so I can catch that little piece over and over again. It is simple beauty at its most powerful.


Blogger Tunku Halim said...

I like the bit about creating white space. Sometimes we should just be still and be. Perhaps even create nothing.

4:34 PM  
Blogger starlight said...

so true, tunku halim. but oh so difficult - yet so essential - to be still when everything around you is moving at top speed!

7:01 PM  
Blogger kheng said...

hi there. this is kheng hua, and i thank you for writing that lovely little piece about my hallmark interstitial. sounds like you've been there too! you can write me at

6:59 AM  

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