The Path To Bodhichitta

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

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Year

One year ago today, one of my favourite people moved on to another life.

One year ago today, I realised that the hole she left only fit her shape and therefore, would never be filled.

One year ago today, I wished I had just one more day. Said one more word. Felt one more loving smack.

One year after, I stood where she is no longer and silently thanked her for watching over me.

One year after, I talk to her almost everyday.

One year after, I miss her just as much as I did one year ago.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Taking Risks

During my recent trip to Krabi, I convinced Mentor to give up our seats in the van and take a walk on the beach back to our hotel. She hesitated.

“Its full moon and we have a flashlight,” I pointed out. She agreed.

The resort manager who had brought us to the restaurant was a little harder to convince. Is it safe, was all I wanted to know, since I had promised The Thinker that I would take good care of myself. She reluctantly said yes, and so we walked back.

When I related this anecdote to The Thinker, he said in good-natured exasperation, “Why must you always insist on doing something when someone tells you not to do it?”

It isn’t about being rebellious or stubborn (though my mother would BEG to differ). Nor is it about being arrogant, indifferent or foolhardy. It’s about learning to be fearless.

All my life I’ve had the people who love me tell me not to do this or that. That’s what those who love you are supposed to do. They don’t mean to hold you back, just protect you in the best way they can. But ultimately, the object of your fear is looking straight at you. Not at them. And you have to decide whether you want and need to conquer it.

I think many people misunderstand the concept of risk-taking. They think it’s about throwing caution to the wind and plunging headfirst into the unknown. That works but not all the time. Real risk-taking - to me at least – is giving some thought to the situation at hand and then deciding to go forth without knowing the exact outcome but accepting that it could go either way. This prepares you for whatever awaits at the end of the road. It is also shows respect towards yourself, those who love you and the situation itself.

Editrixed sent me this bit by her favourite columnist Cary Tennis two months ago. It has given me the courage to take some scary risks this year.

Doing the things you are not prepared to do prepares you to do them. That is how you learn. You don't walk in knowing how. You walk in ready to have an experience and be changed by it.

You may not feel ready to do something that is necessary. You do not control the timetable. This is evident when people die, are born, get married, move away, are fired, hired, change their minds: You are not ready for what the changes in the world around you require you to do. Nonetheless, you deal.

Everything may indeed happen for a reason, but we do not have to know what that reason is before acting. If you wait to know the reason, you may never act. You act. Then things become clear. That's more often how it works. Rather than rational certainty, often what you need to act on is a trust in probability, and a trust in inevitability, and your own desire. Trust your own desire. It will often lead you the right way.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

According to Obama

"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled."

"Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts."

"Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere."

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Letter To Amanpour

When I was 11, I marched into the kitchen where my mother was washing vegetables for dinner and declared, "I want to be a journalist because I want to be a voice for those without one."

My mother rewarded this grand annoucement with, "You just concentrate on studying first."

12 years later, I was a news writer and presenter for a satellite radio station. The art deco in the small newsroom consisted of four TV sets mounted on the walls and tuned to CNN, BBC, Bloomberg and ESPN. One day in the midst of scrambling to meet the hourly deadlines, I shot a hurried glance at the CNN channel and stopped in mid-type. For the next few minutes, I watched a dark-haired woman in her trademark boxy jacket deliver her field report. In that instant, I knew that I had found my role model in Christiane Amanpour.

The radio news station was the closest that I have ever gotten to writing 'serious news'. And it wasn't enough. I wanted to write for major news magazines but knew that I didn't have the right portfolio with which to approach them just yet. Then two weeks ago, the opportunity to contribute to an Asian news magazine appeared. I was both thrilled and terrified! If all worked out, it would be my first proper foray into the world of serious news reporting and I wasn't sure where to turn for guidance in this unfamiliar world. Then a crazy thought popped up; why not ask Amanpour herself? The very idea of it took my breath away, but it made sense. What's the point of having a role model if you can't seek her wisdom?

So last night I wrote an email to her. I explained my situation and asked her three questions (1) What do you read on a daily basis? (2) How do you prepare yourself for interviews and news stories, especially if the subject is unfamiliar and you're on a tight deadline? (3) What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Within minutes I received an auto-reponse thanking me for my correspondence and assuring me that my email would be read but regretting that they would be unable to provide a personal response.

Worst case scenario, I don't hear from her.
Best case scenario, I do.
Point of the scenario, I asked.

The Ocean's Gift

Editrixed and I resumed our nightly online chats when I returned from Krabi last night. She demanded to hear everything so she could live vicariously through me, though I didn't understand why since she already leads an amazing life. But I never need much encouragement to talk so I talk I did. At the end of my stories, she asked me if I had any revelations while on holiday. I didn't answer her then because although I had entertained many thoughts while watching the ocean, I couldn't think of any that could be classified as a revelation.

It was only during a shower this evening - because all great ideas emerge from the shower head - that it hit me. I become a stronger person each time I live by the ocean.

I have a surer footing, a clearer mind and a restful spirit. I am glued together better. I feel grounded. More certain of myself. Less inclined to be shaken by the nonsense of the world. I am gentler too. Softer. Kinder. The ocean makes me a better person somehow.

This discovery took me by surprise. But it shouldn't, really. Looking back, I can see all those little moments during which the shift happened.

In Cherating, it was lying on an empty stretch of beach beside The Thinker. It was looking at the stars at night. It was walking hand-in-hand in the ocean as a storm approached. It was eating chocolate in silence on the verandah of our little beach hut and looking out to sea.

In Krabi, it was kayaking alone at dawn on a sparkling sheet of crinkled glass. It was standing at the water's edge in the dead of night with the wind in my hair and salt on my skin. It was enjoying a breakfast of French toast and excellent coffee while watching the waves roll in.

The ocean reminds me of how small I am in the greater scheme of things. It demands that I offer a prayer of thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to witness its magnificence. And then it nudges me to declare my hopes and dreams, and allow the wind to snatch them out of my mouth and fling them to the horizon. It renews my trust and faith and fills me with just that little bit of inner strength.

I have always loved the ocean. And now I love it even more because I finally understand what it does to and for me.

Happiness Is...

* Living by the ocean
* Reading in bed on a weekday evening with a cup of coffee and a storm brewing
* Hanging out with The Thinker
* Four-hour chats with Editrixed
* Coffee with Mentor and Floozy
* Spending time with Odie, Mumps & Melson aka the family
* Christmas!
* A brilliant piece of journalism
* Roast chicken with gravy, mash and vegetables
* French toast
* Super soft yoga pants that also makes me look skinny ;)
* A clean apartment
* Brothers & Sisters
* An unusual writing assignment
* Being immersed in a creative project and oblivious to the rest of the world
* No writer's block
* A stunning lineup on Classic Rock

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Krabi Calling

I board a plane tomorrow. My first this year. And for the next four days Mentor and I will sip too much orange juice, toast our bodies on hot white sand, read until we're cross-eyed, indulge in girly chatter and melt under delicious Thai massages.

Part of me is looking forward to the escapism, part of me is a little nervous about travelling with someone new. Mentor and I go way back but the longest time we've ever spent together was two hours over our weekend brunches. Unlike me, she takes regular solo trips and revels in her solitude. Solo travel doesn't appeal to me and I'm a talker. It's a perfect match. *grin*

But that aside, I'm eager to get back to my beloved ocean. Eager to stand at the water's edge and cast my gaze out to fine line that divides sea and sky. To feel the sprinkle of salt on my lips and in my hair.

The Thinker gifted me with a trip to the ocean two weeks ago and delighted me by choosing a darling wooden chalet on the ocean front just "so you can live your dream of having a beach house". Leaving that simple little 'house' at the end of the trip tugged at my heartstrings. I wanted more.

So I'm glad to be going 'home' again.