The Path To Bodhichitta

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

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fickle Desires

At this point of writing, I am sitting in the living room of a one-bedroom villa in Amara Sanctuary Resort. Through the large sliding windows, the jacuzzi in the private plunge pool is bubbling busily and the light from my bedroom on the other side is casting cool golden light into its ripples. There is a lanai at the end of the pool, where I will read and fall asleep tonight, covered only by the inky sky and scattered stars. And when I awake, I will hop, skip and jump over to the outdoor shower or perhaps treat myself to a quick soak in the outdoor bathtub.

I wish I could say that I am on holiday, but it's work and my luxury is being billed to one of my favourite clients.

When I arrived yesterday, I was tired and grumpy. The front desk officer handed me my key and smiled, "You're in Villa 2, ma'am."

Villa 2? Must be a fancy name for their hotel room, I thought. Then, the bell boy drove up in a buggy and we trundled off to my lodgings. He swung open the door and mumbled, "There must be a mistake". For a good hour, I walked about in a daze, unable to believe my hedonistic surroundings and actually feeling guilty about it.

Then I discovered the squashed cigarette butt in the little garden, the tiny specks of dirt in the tub, the confusing light switches, the uncoorperative air-conditionining and a slightly stained coffee cup. And slowly, my discomfort turned into dissatisfaction. Didn't housekeeping know how to clean? Didn't the electrician think before fixing the switches? Why weren't there instructions for the air-conditioning?

I caught myself as I was mentally drafting my feedback for the evaluation form, and I laughed, half-amused and half-ashamed at my audacity. Just a few minutes ago, I was uneasy with the luxury. How quickly my ego adapted, so much so that it felt that it was its duty to seek out and complain about trivialities.

Our expectations and desires just keep stretching. And if we don't pull the reins every now and then, we will one day wake up to find that even infinity is claustrophobic.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Hidden Ego

The recent hike in fuel price has triggered a financial anxiety in my little world. Truth is, I didn't even know why I was as worried as a I was. It just felt like all my savings wouldn't be enough to last me through the next week even. I agonized over this issue for many days and when The Elder innocently asked me how I was, the whole drama tumbled out.

"Why don't you go back to teaching?" the Elder asked, when I finally stopped to catch my breath. I stared at her.

"I can't go back to teaching just for the money!" I was almost offended at her suggestion. "That is a terrible reason to teach again!"

The Elder held my stare steadily. "You are such a snob. You think yoga, art and dance are so spritual that no money could ever be attached to it. And that only those who teach for non-monetary reasons are in touch with their spiritual side. What's wrong in spreading the joy of yoga and getting paid for it? As long as you're not charging excessively for a class, there is no harm."

"Nothing!" I sputtered. "But to go back to yoga solely for the income is wrong!"

"Okay," The Elder shrugged and changed the subject.

One week later

I was reading an article on, entitled 'Marketing Yoga The Yogic Way'. In the article, yoga teacher Beryl Bender Birch speaks about some [teachers] who have huge egos about the fact that they don't promote themselves.

"'I'm so spiritual because I don't use any flyers.' That's just as much about ego as the people who make up some bogus resumé. Just as there are spiritual consequences of marketing, there are spiritual consequences of not marketing. The West has added something beautiful to the world of yoga: the concept that the teachings must be moved out into the world. If our intention is to hide from the world and from our own responsibilities, then not marketing our class is as deadly to our spirit as marketing with greedy intent."

I then understood what The Elder meant. And while I still feel uncomfortable about returning to teaching for the sake for a few extra ringgit, I am a little more open to the idea of treating yoga as a professional business in the future.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In My Space

I texted The Elder today about a sale she's holding in her home for the Devi range of yoga wear. (Those of you who live in Kuala Lumpur and are interested, it's on June 8th from 2-6pm in Bukit Damansara. Drop me a note with your email address and I'll email you the details) Inevitably she asked, "How's your practice coming along? Ready for new asanas?"

My fingers remained poised over my keypad for a long while, as I thought hard about my answer. How is my practice coming along? I still have bad days, though most are pretty good. There is progress in certain areas, though some easy poses have recently become frustratingly and unexplainably challenging. So I told her that.

The next thing I know, she's calling me and offering to come over to my apartment to watch me practice in my space.

"What's the difference?" I asked nervously.

"Well, sometimes the space in which we practice also has an impact on our practice," she said.


So we set a date for this Thursday evening. I am filled with gratitude at her generosity, but the thought of The Elder in my little yoga room, watching me practice on my old faded mat, is also making me very very nervous!