The Path To Bodhichitta

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

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Started A Joke

I always thought it would be cancer, you know. Or even brain tumour. Not that I invite any of it, you understand, but I just thought that if anything were to uproot me, it would be something of that nature. And I knew instinctively/arrogantly/ignorantly - call it whatever you want - that I would be absolutely fine.

I would throw a tantrum that the gods would hear from their cushy thrones in the heavens, but then I would get up, examine my bruised knees and just get on with it. I would sing Que Sera Sera or Obladi Oblada. And I would be fine.

But this?

I bet they're all rolling off their thrones in laughter up there.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

My Turn

Last week, an old friend asked me when I was going to start writing my own stuff. When was I going to put all those great ideas onto paper? When was I going to display my passion to the world?

I didn't have an answer.

Come to think of it, I had never really written anything 'just for the heck of it'. Except for this blog perhaps, and even then I still think I take this way too seriously. I've always written for my editors. All my writing had to have a purpose and fun didn't count as a purpose. I think I'm one of the few writers who has a collection of half-hearted, half-empty journals. I could never just write. But I'm much better now. My little orange journal has more than 20 scribbled, cohesive pages.

I suppose I'm afraid really. Afraid that the ideas won't sound as good on paper as they do in my head. And the best writers I know are those who don't write for a living. They are people who write from the heart without the head editing each sentence.

So maybe I should allow myself to write badly. Then that monster will be slayed once and for all. The same way I practiced the headstand. I laboured at it for weeks, approaching it halfway then backing down, unable to swing my body up in case I fell. I finally got tired of this peek-a-boo routine and made a bed of cushions around my mat. Then I told my body that I wanted it to fall. After I got over the terror of crashing down, I had no problems going up again.

I fell. I survived. I got up. Now let's do it again. And again. And again.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wisdom From A Parking Ticket Machine

I've been looking over my shoulder for the past week, my thinking cap jammed firmly on my head. Then I look forward and wonder where I am going. Whether I would have a chance to do things differently or were the grooves of my habits carved too deeply to reshape.

I was still chewing on this as I paid for my parking ticket at The Gardens. As I machine swallowed the ringgit bills, I glanced idly at the screen. Then I looked closer. Right at the bottom were the words 'Change Is Possible'.

I have paid for my parking ticket at The Gardens more than ten times. I have probably seen that line more than ten times. But today I read it differently for the first time.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Through The Years

"When did you know you were growing up?" I asked Mentor.

Her spoonful of Sticky Mango Rice stopped halfway to her mouth, as she thought for a while. "When I was in the UK," she answered, finally popping the spoon into her mouth.

"I was seventeen and that was the first time I saw a woman smoking and Muslims drinking in public. I was so amazed that I wrote home immediately!" She chortled at the memory.

"What did your mother say?" I leaned forward, my own dessert forgotten.

"My mother was so worried that I would attempt to satiate my curiousity by jumping on the bandwagon that she called me immediately after receiving my letter! She very calmly asked me how I felt seeing these unsusual sights. When she was satisfied that I merely found them fascinating and not seductive, she told me that what these people did wasn't wrong but it wasn't right for a Muslim woman. Being able to hold on to my traditional values in a modern society, do my own laundry, pay my own bills and feed myself made me grow up."

I thought about my sojourn to Australia ten years ago. I was a budding young writer on a journalism scholarship. Thanks to my work experience, I was only required to spend nine months there to obtain my degree. Just enough time to flirt with Australia, teeter at the brink of what could have been true love and bade a tearful farewell. I have dreamt of returning but never quite bought that ticket.

Unlike Mentor, however, crossing an ocean didn't help me grow up. Sure, I did my own laundry, paid my own bills and fed myself but I was too scared to leave my little shell to truly explore the world's offerings. I believed that if I didn't subscribe wholeheartedly to my parents' world view, I would be lost in the wilderness forever. And so I put on my self-righteous cloak and effectively robbed myself of the invaluable growing up years.

Today I look back at Australia and the years that followed it, and my heart breaks. I've spent half my adult life judging others for not being like me and the other half, judging myself for not being like others. Neither was paradise. And I have discovered that I am a late bloomer in the EQ department.

My past has suddenly decided to pay me a visit and I've found myself wading through a sea of memories. The big waves are merciless and sometimes I thrash underwater wondering if I'll make it to the surface this time. And then I do but the sting of saltwater is sharp and doesn't wash off easily.

Maybe it's going to be another hard week. Or month. Or year.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Great Big Belly Laugh

I am feasting on another Julia Cameron book. She is my favourite author on creativity and The Vein of Gold and The Sound of Paper have helped me though the first half of this year. Now I am reading God Is No Laughing Matter and am chuckling with each turn of the page.

Cameron warns the Very Spiritual People at the very start of this book that 'you may not find the book you hold in your hands very spiritual...but you will find it very sprited.' And from thereon, she proceeds to gently poke fun at every single serious strand of spirituality in a hilarious, thought-provoking collection of short essays.

I'm very sure that many Christians would make a bonfire of every single copy of this book if they could but that's exactly Cameron's point - why so serious? Cameron herself is a believer, having also written two books on the subject - Blessings and Transitions - and paying tribute to God in many of her other books too.

I'm enjoying this book because it reminds me not to take spirituality too seriously. So forget being vegetarian, forget celibacy, forget elaborate prayers, forget transcending pain and anger, forget meditating for 12 hours a day and watching your mind like a TV set, forget being humourless because God is a serious matter, forget believing that God only sets obstacles for us....forget all the man-made rules about spirituality.

The best spiritual path is not one that you create from an combination of underlined sentences in various self-help books, but the very path you are walking on right this very minute.