Sunday, 20 December 2009

It's going to be okay

It’s going to be okay
by Barin Taylor

It's going to be okay...
Just hang in there
It’s going to be okay
Just give things a little time

And in the meantime…
Keep believing in yourself;
Take the best of care;
Try to put things in perspective;
Remember what’s most important;
Don’t forget that someone cares;

Search for the positive side;
Learn the lessons to be learned;
And find your way through to the inner qualities…
The strength, the smiles, the wisdom and the optimistic outlook
That are such special parts of you.

It’s going to be okay

I know it will be
Because I know you

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The discourse between boxes and non-boxes: what eventually matters is Love

There are times when you made a decision to go somewhere or do something because you believe in the cause, and despite your rather limited funding, you don’t regret doing it. In fact, had you missed it, you would truly regret it, knowing how beautiful it could have been for you.

It was the feeling I had when I visited Mother India January this year. It was also the feeling I had (still have) as my cheapie Jetstar took off from Melbourne to Townsville yesterday (7 Dec09) after attending the 2009 Parliament of World’s Religions. I had to go back early (the conference finishes tomorrow, 9 Dec with the speeches from His Holiness Dalai Lama and Uncle Bob Randall) because of some time and financial constrains, but I did not regret going. At all. Well, now I have to keep a very good eye on what I buy etc until my next payment, but again, I am very grateful that I did go to Melbourne.

For all five senses of mine (and my sixth sense as well) were ‘assaulted’ with beauty. Vibrant colours, sounds and voices from many cultures and traditions of the world welcomed me. There at the south bank of Yarra River in Melbourne, I met lots and lots of beautiful souls from every religion, tradition and culture on Earth. It was a privilege for me to meet them, for I didn’t even know until then that a Sikh woman would dress up with a white kurta pyjama or salwar kameez and white turban. Or that a Tibetan monk actually wears his saffron and burgundy robe differently from a Chinese monk, despite the similar colour scheme.

And I identify with them. I identify myself with the Tibetan monks or the beautiful Odissi dancers who danced for Lord Krishna, Lady Durga and Lord Shiva. I understand the pains of my innocent Moslem and Sikh brothers and sisters who were hunted down in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy in the U.S., just because they looked like terrorists. I in turn narrated the plight of ‘the minorities’ (like myself) and the moderates in Indonesia, who hope to maintain Indonesia’s cultural and religious diversities under Pancasila (The Five Pillars) and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) despite voices from the radicals. And – just as I was moved to tears in learning during the Divine Feminine session how our Divine Mother finally returned to us after her long millennia sabbatical leave – I also hope that Indonesia will soon become a feminine country again; a loving and embracing country that nurtures and protects all her citizens despite their cultures, religions, and other backgrounds, the way a Mother would.

I also met those who do not claim to be part of any religion at all, but still showing love and compassion to Life. To God. To the Grand Force I perceive as the Grand Creator or Creatress. They are no less compassionate than those who belong to a particular religion. Instead, they are very full of love and understanding. Sometimes I identify myself better with them because I often have to struggle to answer the simple question of ‘What is your religion?’

I suppose… I also don’t identify myself with a certain religion. I mean, I do lots of Vedic chanting and prayers, and also conduct daily yoga in the morning. But I don’t see myself as a Hindu per se. I also do Buddhist meditations, and I love doing Sufi whirling. I am crazy about Celtic Pagan tradition, particularly when talking about the Goddess, akin to the way the Shakta would love the Great Mother Durga. I do have my roots and faith. But I don’t identify myself with only one tradition or religion. All are beautiful to me. And despite my years of struggle to accept that weird part of me, now I am in peace with myself. I accept that I do not belong to a particular box of religion. I respect all boxes. I practice the teachings of some boxes, and they have been nourishing me… but I am more of a soul that is happy to be out of the box, happy to just be in Love.

Hence, when it comes to the discourse between box and non-box, between those who believe that one must have a particular religion for one’s own good and those who believe that one can appreciate the beauty of all religions and traditions and yet still earns the right to be free out of the box, I have to take side with the non-box one. Bearing in mind not to create a new non-box box. If you know what I mean.

See, I believe that it is good to teach the children the beauty of all traditions in the world, and then when they are old enough to consciously choose they should be encouraged to either choose a tradition/religion/belief they feel suit them or choose to be a free spirit who lives outside the box yet still be loving and kind.There is also nothing wrong to hold on to your religion/tradition – that proves to add colours, sounds and voices during the Parliament. But, as I respect those who chooses to still be rooted in their religion of choice, please also be respectful of those who decide that they have outgrown the boxes. And although I understand the need to identify oneself with a religion/tradition, eventually we have to outgrow it and become humankind. It’s okay to say that ‘I’m a Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Sikh, a non-faith but loving person’ – those are our personal paths we chose to walk on. We need that at personal levels. But eventually at non personal levels, with all due respect, I think we must drop the labels and be human beings. Just humans who embody love and peace within.I understand that this ‘out of the box’ thing is still difficult to address, even at the Parliament. I do not have the exact quote, but the slogan I heard during the international plenary was something like ‘You come with your belief intact. You don’t leave it at the door. You bring it with you, but with utter and beautiful respect.’ Now that’s a very different thing from the school of thought I believe in now thanks to Swami Anand Krishna, who taught me that we should actually drop our ‘clothes’, jump out of our boxes, and come as human beings.

But I think, feel, that I should respect people who still want to be in boxes. It’s already hard enough to conduct dialogues with people of different faith and refraining from saying ‘my religion this’ or ‘my religion that’. I feel that I should respect those who come in the spirit of true dialog and willingness to listen and understand. Though of course, I can dream of the day where people would say that ‘Hey, that’s so true! For not only Jesus said that, Muhammad, Krishna and Guru Nanak also confirmed it. And I know that the Great Goddess also agrees!’ or something like that.

And dare I dream that the day would eventually come, sooner than later? The day where we celebrate our vibrant diversities without even having to refrain from saying that ‘despite everything, my tradition is still the superior tradition’? For there is no need from refraining; for we know and realise that this is not about superiority or supremacy. Down to its very root, it is about personal path, and it is very uniquely catered to each individual’s personal growth.

Dare I hope? I so dare hope.

And what of people of another box? The atheist or non-believers? See, there is another discourse in the Parliament about it. There are people who believe that those atheists better learn from the believers because religion is the only way to salvation. That these non-believers will basically be condemned to hell for all eternity. I of course respectfully disagree. Thank Gods and Goddesses, there are also leaders in the Parliament who agreed that the non-believers also have the right to choose not to believe. It is their birthright to do so.

I agree. Suppose you are a non-believer… it matters not to me. Because what matters to me eventually is not whether you are a believer of a particular religion or not, but your own personal integrity. My own personal integrity. Your love. My love. Our vibrant need to explore and understand Life with giddy excitement and respect.

For eventually we are one big family of humankind and that we only have one Mother Earth to live in. And – just the enlightened Pagan gentlemen during the ‘Men who Love the Goddess’ stated – if we see Earth as our Great Mother instead of a ‘cash cow’, we would treat her differently. We would treat her with respect. With Love, with capital ‘L’.

PS: The Sacred Music Concert was amazing. I might have to make another post just to tell you about that vibrant night where I was indulged with beautiful sounds and musics from many traditions. God is indeed great...Allahu Aqbar...

Pic 1. Sufi whirling during the Sacred Music Concert
Pic 2. Sand mandala by Gyuto Monks
Pic 3. Waning moon by the bank of Yarra River
All pictures are taken by myself

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Stepmother’s Support Group - not your usual Saturday snack

It’s weird to read something with such an intense and uncommon theme like The Stepmother’s Support Group (SSG) novel… but authoress Samantha Baker (current editor of Red magazine in UK) has made it so fresh and alight (despite having serious sub-themes inside) that I can’t help but writing a short review about it. About how I enjoyed and admired it.

SSG was not exactly what I needed for a lite ‘chick-lit’ reading after a day(s) of struggling with your thesis. But it’s actually not a wonder why I chose it. I’ve lived with step-somethings almost a third of my life. My parents were divorced and now I have a set of step parents, one is much more dysfunctional than the other. My sister will be a stepmother herself in a year’s time. My cousin remarried as well, so her daughters have a stepfather now. My other cousin is a rebel, for his father remarried again, and he has to cope with the stepmother (actually, it’s the other way around. The stepmother is the one who has to cope with him!). I even once considered myself as a potential stepmother for the children of a man I used to love so much (still love so much), but…it never went that far…

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

I'm the World today!

So my dearest sister-friend told me this site, and I took the quiz, and...

I'm the Universe today!

You are the World

Completion, Good Reward.

The World is the final card of the Major Arcana, and as such represents saturnian energies, time, and completion.

The World card pictures a dancer in a Yoni (sometimes made of laurel leaves). The Yoni symbolizes the great Mother, the cervix through which everything is born, and also the doorway to the next life after death. It is indicative of a complete circle. Everything is finally coming together, successfully and at last. You will get that Ph.D. you've been working for years to complete, graduate at long last, marry after a long engagement, or finish that huge project. This card is not for little ends, but for big ones, important ones, ones that come with well earned cheers and acknowledgements. Your hard work, knowledge, wisdom, patience, etc, will absolutely pay-off; you've done everything right.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Thanks, Sis!

Unite for Climate!

When are we going to stop labeling one country as developed industrial country, and another one as developing country, and hence one has more responsibility than others, or vice versa? I'm tired of these labels.

When are we going to see that we live in the same planet with limited resources, that eventually the hell with those statistical significance of the data they are debating... or that climate change issue is being politicised by some people? I'm tired of these debates.

Data is important. Accurate numbers are important. Profit sharing may be important. But they are not as important as our hearts. Not as important as our consciousness, our responsibility to Mother Earth...

The price for ignoring this climate change issue is too high to pay. Not merely whether I'm right or another person is right. Not only published papers or reports in fanciful journals. Not even the Nobel Prize.

The price is Mother Earth herself. The hundreds of thousands of ppl displaced due to cyclones and other hazards. The price is our only home...

When the time comes, it matters not if I'm a scientist or a teacher or a farmer. It matters not if I'm an economist or a nurse or a policewoman.

What matters is that I am a human... with my responsibility towards Mother Earth who gives me Life. What matters is my moral and spiritual duty to Her.

Rants for the Bangkok climate change meeting, 28 Sept - 9 Oct 2009...

Pic: Mother Earth

Saturday, 5 September 2009

My tips to buying shoes

"What is it about shoes? I mean, I like most kinds of clothes, but a fabulous pair of shoes can just reduce me to jelly." ~ Becky Bloomwood, 'Shopaholic Abroad'

Since I’m officially a shoeaholic now, and the bloody statistics software I tried to understand has not open up to me yet (this program must be a male!), I think I will just jot down some ideas for myself and whoever wants to read this.

First rule: Love your feet and legs first. Then love your shoes. NOT the other way around. Comfort comes first.

Get that? You buy shoes for your feet and legs. You don’t mould your feet and legs to accommodate your shoes. Well, this rule can be 'stretched' to certain extend, but comfort comes first. Always.

Buying shoes directly at stores

This is a rather piece of cake.
1. Time of purchase: Attempt to buy shoes at the end of the day, for your feet tend to get larger in the afternoon/evening

2. Try, try, try! Don’t worry if the seller isn’t happy at your nth attempt to find the correct pair. NEVER buy a pair of shoes just to please the seller (I almost did that once!). Buy them because you are happy with it.

3. If it’s running shoes/sneakers or boots, always allow about 1cm extra space at the toe pad. Particularly for these types of shoes, they should serve you comfort (and joy, if possible). Make sure that you don’t sacrifice your calves by putting boots that are too tight for them. No boots are sexy when you have to squint and flinch while wearing them.

4. If it’s pump/court shoes or slingbacks, it’s a bit tricky. Colin McDowell said that ‘Shoes which fit well are a modern luxury’. I agree, particularly with pumps and slingbacks. It has to fit just right. Just snug enough for you to walk comfortably without screaming inside your heart (along with the feet). It can’t be too loose either, for it will be like flip-flops and gives blisters at the heels instead of sexiness. BUT you can always do the tricks for loose pumps. Put cushion pads at the ball of feet and, if this is not enough, place bits of cloth remnants at the toe parts to make it snugger. Or place sticky gels at the slingbacks to keep them in place.

5. Heels have to be of the right height. I know that shoe-fetish likes high heels because they accentuate women’s legs and I do agree with that. I just don’t agree that we should sacrifice comfort and health in the name of fashion. Some health-feet websites would recommend approx 2.5” (6cm) maximum height for comfort. Sturdy heels are better than kitten heels (tho those kitten heels are truly cute!), let alone stilettos. See Oh! Shoes for more info, among others. Adding extra gel cushions at the ball of feet helps distributing the weight off our ball of foot as well.

6. Colour: at least you should have three colours, IMO. Black, silver and gold. Then add other colours of your preference: red, orange, pink, blue or even taupe or nude. Pick colours that will go well with your dresses. I tend to pick shoes that complement my dresses/skirts/tops, not the other way around. But if you find a pair of nice shoes with extraordinary colour and you really like it, well, get it. Just make sure you don’t wear it only once (for instance because it clashes with your clothes), for it will be a wasted investment.

Buying shoes online

1. Almost all points above are also applicable for online shoe purchase (except for time of purchase, duh!). The point about the seller is also applicable. Yes, because I tell you what: you have the right to ‘hassle’ sellers for information about the shoes. You have to exercise that right and the seller has to respond to it.

2. Found this handy tip from good buyers at eBay: Measurement, measurement, measurement! Since you can’t try the shoes yourself online, you HAVE to ask for exact measurements to sellers. Don’t rely on the stated size, for size varies according to manufacturers. I go between size AU 8-9 (EU 39-40, UK 6-7), but sometimes I could fit size AU 7 (EU 38, UK 5)! The important measurements you must seek are: insole length, width of ball of foot, and heel height. For boots, add the calf circumference. Then, compare the measurement provided with the fittest pair of shoes you have. If you want to buy pumps, you have to compare it with pumps you already have. If you don’t have pumps, and this will be your first purchase of pump shoes (online, even!), get your feet measured. Check this site on how to do it.

Also remember, if you buy pointy or narrow shoes, you have to add more to the insole length. Ask the seller for the maximum length where the toes end, NOT only the total insole length. Depending on how pointy it is, the maximum length could be 2-3cm shorter than the total insole length, and you should use this shorter one instead of the longer one.

What if it doesn’t fit?!

It happened to me, you know, with my online purchase (with the correct measurement, really! Alas, they were a bit pointy and I wasn't aware of it). Or it often happen that the shoes you tried at the store fit, but then it does not fit anymore at home. If the shoes are just a tad too narrow, you’re saved. But if it’s more than 1 size too small, you better let it go. Don’t mould your feet for the shoes; you're not Cinderella's sisters and no prince to charm anyway. Return the shoes or sell them back at eBay. So this is what I did for shoes that were a bit narrow. They worked the charms, though none of my shoes that required stretching were made of leather (all of stretching techniques are most effective for leather shoes):

1. Hair-dry the shoes (black satin pumps) and wear them right away. The feet will mould the shoes. Wear them around the house or inside your office, just to get your feet used to them.

2. Use the ice technique as Michelle Phan (she’s so cute!) described in YouTube. It worked a bit for my beautiful brocade shoes (tad too narrow at the width), for it breaks the materials so it’s easier to mould

3. Since it’s still not enough, I went to local cobbler and have it stretched. He stretched them for two days and now they’re better. I can walk with it now, tho they’re still a bit narrow (due to the nature of the materials, not because the cobbler didn't do a good job. In fact, he was a good cobbler, and a nice one too!)

4. Buy a shoe stretcher (or two) and stretch the shoes myself. That’s what I plan to do with my brocade shoes (she’s the hardest to break), for she’s already okay now. Just need several stretches more to really make her flexible. I’ve bought one from eBay and I will tell you in a few weeks how it goes! Investing in a shoe stretcher is also good because you can do it all over again with your other shoes, or with shoes that haven't been worn for a long time and shrink a little.

Bottom line: don’t use your own feet to break the shoes. Use other tools/methods for that purpose. Love your feet first, then the shoes

Caring for your shoes

Caring for our shoes make them long-lasting and it means savings in the future, for you don't need to replace them every so often.

1. Keep the shoe boxes to store the shoes. If the shoes came without the box, at least wrap them with tissue paper and keep them inside a plastic bag or purchase a transparent container to keep them in

2. Keep the shoes out of dust and damp. Use water absorber if necessary. Your shoes are your investment, appreciate and take care of them!

3. Some people would put pictures of their shoes at each box for easier identification, but I find it too much to do. I just memorise them, for each pair of shoes came with different boxes, but you’re welcome to do the pix!

4. Do we really need a shoe closet? Well, if you can afford it, why not? But if not, a cupboard or shelves are useful too

5. Invest on shoe shampoo to clean your shoes (particularly the fabric ones), shoe polisher (for the leather ones) and shoe protector (that’s a spray to apply layers of protection on top of the shoes). They’re worth it, and the shampoo has nice fragrance. Clean the shoes regularly and let them dry before storing them properly

Caring for your feet

I believe that healthy feet contribute significantly to healthy body and good life. Here's what I do to myself towards that purpose:

1. Don't wear high heel too often. We have loads of fashionable flat shoes nowadays, the Gladiator style and ballet flats are good examples. Giselle Bundchen has been producing a great line of comfy Ipanema sandals. Choose them for daily wear instead of high heels, if possible. If your work place requires high heels, always keep a pair of ballet flats or similar comfy shoes behind your desk so that you can interchangeably wear them during breaks. But you might want to still add up to 2.5cm height to those flats, for it helps reducing pain in the shins, or so these guys said.

2. Do feet exercise. Turn one foot slowly left to right, and then the other. Massage them. Love them. Talk to them. They take you everywhere. If the battle ensues between feet and shoes, make sure you're on the feet side, not the other way around. You want to keep walking straight as you can even though you're reaching 70!

3. If occasion arises for high heels, make sure you have enough padding in them. Use gel cushion, heel pads and other tools easily available in local chemists to increase the comfort. After the exciting party, make sure that you take care of your feet again. Massage them, thank them for the good dance/party, and sleep with elevated legs to release the pressures.

Good luck! Remember, love your shoes. But love your feet first!

Pic 2. Cinderella's glass pump shoes, from
Pic 3. Poor Anastasia... from Popcorn UK

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Invitation

Special thanks to Ee for sending me this beautiful poem...

The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Pic: Vnssa from Deviantart

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Why do I love Becky Bloomwood?

I was being sulky a few weeks ago, and chose to counteract it by re-reading two of the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella that I have. I hence re-read Shopaholic Abroad (where she shopped till dropped in NYC) and Shopaholic & Baby (that was really really cute!). Then I pondered why I liked this series so much, because… it’s actually about a very consumptive girl who can’t stop herself shopping. It’s very non-academic, not so enlightening (or is it), and seriously, I have lots of tings to do. But as a girlfriend of mine said, hey, it’s okay to read no-brainer chick-lit once in a while!

And you know what? She’s right! I don’t think writing a good chick-lit like the Shopaholic series is a no-brainer; Sophie Kinsella was clearly very smart and knowledgeable to be able to write a very captivating series. But reading the (seemingly) no-brainer theme of a shopaholic is, well, no brainer. It’s an escape from day-to-day academic world. The Shopaholic series is definitely one of my favourite series. The books, I mean. Not the movie. Isla Fisher did a good job as a Yankee Becky. But I couldn’t relate to the Hugh Dancy’s version of Luke Brandon, the beau, tho Dancy is also an Englishman. I picture Luke Brandon as taller, better framed, and also a bit more reserved, but funny at the same time…

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Breaking the patterns: Healing at cellular memory level

Again, I have data analysis to do, but my right brain kept begging me to write this down, so here we are. Right brain, the intuition wins. Let’s hope this is a useful epiphany for you dear friend, for it definitely is for me.

First, I would like to acknowledge (again) Christiane Northrup, MD (
Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom) for her amazing book that I have yet finished reading, for it seems like chewing up the last bites of a very delicious meal. I am utterly most grateful for the research and wisdom she unravelled for us there. Other women I would like to thank are a sisterhood of Jane Austen fans, mainly Laurie Viera Rigler (Rude Awakening of a Jane Austen Addict) and Mariana Gheorghe, whose recent article in the Becoming Jane Fansite about Bad Tuesdays for Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy has unconsciously triggered a new shed of awareness in me.

By now, you would be quirking your nicely trimmed eyebrows, for what is the relationship between Northrup’s feminine bodily wisdom and the deceased British authoress of the Regency Period? Two phrase: cellular memories and repetitive patterns.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Working with crystals, dolphins and the moon

I’ve been thinking of writing something about my hobby with crystals, and I think – after submitting a deadline today – this moment is the right time.

I’ve actually been working with crystals since 1-2 years ago, when Swami Anand Krishna introduced me to the wonders of crystals. Ever since, me and two of my best friends have been exploring these beautiful creatures, from the scientific sides to the ethereal and spiritual sides. I have some crystals at home and also in the office (well, my office looks like a shrine, so one of my lecturers said), and I usually wear crystals on my wrist. But enough with history; I just want to share my love with some new member of my crystal family.

The first one is my double terminated clear quartz that I use to channel and expel anger and all unwanted emotions from my systems. I bought her from L’Ayurveda (a very good site in Bali for crystals, by the way!), already cleansed and powerful, and I’ve been using her constantly now, for clear quartz is an excellent amplifier and very good at releasing hidden, unneeded stuffs. New comers for crystals beware though, because the effect could be very ‘harsh’ sometimes. For the first few days, I experienced urges of anger; explained and unexplained, and also headaches (so unrelated to the fashionable swine flu or winter cold). Seemingly, the crystal works rather too well at cleaning up my anger, but because I had zilch experience with clear quartz, I was rather taken by surprise. It is getting more manageable though nowadays, and even if I have headaches (signs of my body trying to get rid of the unwanted emotions and memories), it is not as painful as the first few days. For those who are familiar with the chakra system, clear quartz works well with the seventh chakra (Crown Chakra), and also help purging anger out of the third (solar plexus) chakra.

The second crystal I encountered last month was truly love at first sight. Her name is Larimar, a.k.a. the dolphin stone, a.k.a. Atlantis stone. Larimar is actually the blue-coloured, gemstone quality of pectolite, and it is so rare that it can only be found in the Caribbean. Her colour is very exquisite; the lush and light blue of the tropical sea. You know… the kind of blue or green-blue you get when you see the tropical sea and coastal areas from a low flying airplane? That’s the one. The more reflections and colourful the blue tone you get, the more expensive your Larimar is.

But as many crystal healers would recommend; pick any crystals that resonate with you the most; regardless of the price and the outlook. I have so far three Larimars (yeah, shocking, I know…); the first two I obtained from a local shop in Bali. Very similar in tones. The third one I obtained in the next 30 minutes, given by my best friend with other tumbled stones/crystals to work on my chakra balancing. Hers actually had better vibration, for she sourced it from a better place (the shop that I visited had low energy, but I was so in want of Larimar, I just rushed into the first store I found). So in the end, I had to cleanse my Larimar several times to match my friend’s given Larimar (which works excellently with my throat chakra, by the way).

It turned out not to be as smooth as I thought. My hands almost ‘burned’ because the energies of my first Larimars clashed with other crystals. I had to wash the dolphin stones immediately in salt water and also smudge them with aromatherapy incense. Later when I arrived in Australia, I re-cleansed them again, but they still weren’t as cleansed and comfortable as I wanted to… until I buried them inside my plant pot. After a few days, voila! They glow from within, just like the Larimar I obtained from my friend. I also rub them with Himalayan salt that just work wonder, and regularly rub them with crushed lavender. I’ve read how essential oils (such as lavender) work wonder, and it is! Fresh lavender is rather impossible to obtain where I live, so I go with the dried ones. I just need to wet my hands with clean water and rub them several times to extract the essential oils. My Larimar looks very happy now! Larimar likes water too; every time I cleanse her with clean water, she looks happy and glowing. I feel the combination of lavender essence and pure water works very well with Larimar.

Larimar works well with the upper chakras, starting from the heart chakra, so I just fashioned my largest Larimar into a pendant and wear it between my throat and heart now. She does a great job in soothing me today, so I will wear her again tomorrow. Larimar also looks very good as jewelry; at least two of my friends have been attracted to my Larimar to the point of awe. And really, what I did was just asking a local beader to glue a silver bail on top of it and match it with a $2 black velvet cord. Simple is beautiful, they say...

As I don’t think rubbing my Larimar with the Himalayan salt too frequently will do good (the salt structure might damage the stone surface), I’m thinking of submerging her with salt solution instead of dipping her in pure salt. I also have been placing her on top of my clear quartz, they look happy together.

The other crystal that works very well with my Larimar is my new Selenite. Now, honestly, Selenite is not love at first sight for me. The first Selenite I saw was my therapist’s, and perhaps because it was hers (well, still is hers), I didn’t feel anything when she allowed me to touch it. But she works well with Selenite, and thus I started to study more about this crystal. When I was convinced and started to think that I might actually need one… I found mine. The shop was Crystal Light in Byron Bay, and you should really look it up the next time you’re going to BB. Going to the Crystal Castle is even a better idea, for they have a huge range of crystals up there in Mullumbimby. But again, you don’t always find your crystal in the largest assembly. The crystals pick you, so wherever they are, just be ready to listen and heed them.

I didn’t spot my Selenite the first time I looked either; for I was rather attracted to a larger ‘fish tail’ Selenite piece that really looked like a fish to me. I held this piece and didn’t feel a thing, so again I thought maybe Selenite just wasn’t for me.

But a few days later, I returned to the same shop in Byron Bay, and then after trying to find a tantric twin clear quartz in vain, I suddenly spotted my fish – I mean, Selenite. She was smaller than the first fish, and wasn’t in a good position to spot… but I spotted her anyway. And as soon as I held her, I felt peace. I’d been having chest pains those days (still a bit now…), but as I held her on my chest, I felt relaxed and soothed. It’s not a wonder really, for Selenite has the soothing properties of the moon – her namesake. Her colour is moon white with some glassy transparent stripes in the satin spar version… and she’s truly soothing. Not only she works well with this relaxing department, she also cleanses herself and the other crystals, including the magnificent clear quartz! How amazing is that!!! I'm officially in love with Selenite now.

And as I said earlier, my Larimars are very happy with the Selenite. Well, it’s not a wonder, isn’t it… for the dolphins, the sea and the moon are very much connected. I almost can’t wait for the next full moon to recharge my Selenite (she’s more of a moon-worshipper than a sun’s) and Larimar together!

Oh, Selenite works well with all chakras (what a stone!), particularly the crown (7th) chakra. I do find nowadays that she works best with my heart though. I do have to say that the exact first night I slept with my Selenite, I had a very bad dream. Too personal to unearth here, but suffice to say that the Selenite might be digging my problems and showing me my true fears so that I can work them out.

So…I guess the bottom line for new crystal dwellers who stumble over this post is that you must let your intuition guide you when you want to pick a crystal. Rather, let the crystal pick you… for it is a very personal thing. Work gently with them, expect the unexpected. Talk to them, cleanse them regularly with whatever methods appropriate (just Google them up)… and most of all: heed to their suggestions and start making changes in your life.

I think I have to do that too, now. I have issues with the first three chakras, and I have to do regular Kundalini Yoga to unblock myself. Come to think of that, my heart and throat chakras seem to have problems too. Ah, but I can’t solve them thoroughly without working with the basic first. Whoever says that the first three chakras are ‘lower’, useless chakras truly does not understand that we cannot build a strong home without making sure that the foundations are strong, healthy and happy.

Pic 1. Some of my crystals. The right one is my family clear quartz, the bottom one is my Selenite (one of my Larimars rests peacefully on top of her)

Pic 2. My sweet, lovely Larimar pendant

Pic 3. My lovely Selenite.
She sometimes reflects rainbow colours under certain light. The picture doesn't do her justice

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Annie’s Passengers

I have an appointment soon and loads of things to do today, but I really wanna write this review. I saw Anne Hathaway’s last year’s ‘Passengers’ movie last night… and was amazed by it. I’ve seen her in Princess Diary, Devil Wears Prada, Becoming Jane (fave!), and Rachel Getting Married, and I love her in all those movies. Upon watching her action last night, I am convinced that she is a classical star… and she might be the next Audrey Hepburn or something like that. And yes, I am aware of the low stars given by various reviewers about this movie. I don’t care. I like it, for it serves as a reminder for me.

‘Passengers’ was basically telling the story of a plane crash and its survivors. Anne Hathaway was Claire Summers, the therapist for 5 people that survived the plane crash, including the sexy and persistent Eric (Patrick Wilson). Along the way, Anne’s patients started to disappear one by one, and she had to track them down and uncover the greatest mystery of her life.

Annie was amazing with her bright deer eyes, and though I have to say that Patrick Wilson’s persistent prompting was rather annoying, but they made quite a good screen couple there (still nowhere near Annie and James McAvoy in BJ!). I also enjoyed David Morse, a guy who used to be Jodie Foster’s father in ‘Contact’, and he was now one of the airline officials in ‘Passengers’ (really, gotta love this guy!). But it’s not only the acting that I was talking about.

In its deepest sense, ‘Passengers’ was not talking about thriller and suspense movie. Nay, to me, it was actually talking about death, and how people cope with death. More specifically, how the dead ones cope with their own death.

I didn’t know about this until the last five minutes of the movie when (SPOILER WARNING!)…

Claire Sommers (Anne Hathaway) finally found the complete list of passengers… which contained… her own name! Yes, Claire was actually one of the passengers onboard the starcrossed plane, and she didn’t survive the crash. None of the passengers survived the crash, not even Patrick and Anne who had just met an hour onboard the plane before the crash. Claire panicked, and I really love the way Annie portrayed a panicked person who had to come to terms with the fact that she herself had actually died. That she was a ghost.

So… was ‘Passengers’ about ghosts? Well, yeah… ghosts who resumed their life (in this case, Annie resumed her life as a therapist, David Morse resumed the life as the pilot who kept regretting that he didn’t save the plane, etc etc)… but the most important thing is that these ghosts were actually guided to find the truth. That they were dead already and that they must move on, and their guides were their loved ones who had left their lives earlier… In Claire (Annie)’s case, they were her deceased aunt Toni (who assumed to be her neighbour) and Mr. Perry, her favourite museum curator who she often talked to when she was a child (who assumed the role as Claire’s boss). In Eric’s case, it was his dead dog and deceased grandfather.
So, what’s the lesson learned? That death is naturally scary for many people, yes… but it is not so, actually. It is a natural process (though plane crash is one of the least favourable gate to death)… and trust that you will be guided in the process…

The Universe is kind, and will not let you go astray. So long as you want to see the Light… trust that you shall see It, and that you shall cross the bridge safely. Many traditions offer the salvation, the way towards inner peace. Call upon that particular Power and He/She/It will help you through. My own personal tradition reminds me of the legend of Lord Shiva who is often called the Destroyer… but is actually more than that. Lord Shiva is the Benevolent one, and also the Destroyer of Death itself. I hope I don’t forget to call upon Him, my Ishta Devata, when my time comes one day. And then I shall go home peacefully, leaving all worldly attachments in love and peace.

And this reminds me of my scheduled meditation session tonight. Have to go there… for living a meditative life would make us celebrate Life as it is, including embracing the final passing easier... when it’s time.

Pic: 'Passengers' poster from Wikipedia

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What is Patience?

The age-old quote says that ‘Patience is a virtue’. Yes, generally speaking, we agree on that, though many people would say that being too patient has its downfall. But what is patience actually?

Patience is often associated with waiting, pain endurance, or perseverance. My focus on this post is patience related to waiting and perseverance, though mere ‘waiting’ itself often has a large dose of agony in it...

One of definition for ‘patience’ is:

“Capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; not hasty or impulsive”

By that definition alone, one of my best friends was correct: I am not patient. I often rush to doing something… or deciding something without carefully considering all related factors; in the name of ‘rapid response’ and ‘tactical thinking’. The result was often not to be proud of… if not total mayhem. Most definitely I am not suited for jobs like private detectives that requires my sitting for hours inside a dark-coloured car, or as a metahuman superhero who lurks around dark roofs, waiting for the evil doers to do their utterly out of sense deeds. Forget about knocking the door of the Batcave and ask for a part-time job; Batman wouldn’t even want to see me.

But patience is not only needed by those detectives and vigilantes. Patience is needed in almost all aspects of life. There is a difference between patience and sluggish, and it relates to our intentions when doing the waiting. Sluggishness happens when we know very well that we need to be quick and prompt in our actions and responses, and yet we do not do that anyway.

Patience… we know we want something and we work towards it. One by one, one small step by one small step. And when the time comes… Strike! And we win!

Just like those old martial artisans who patiently wait upon his enemies… waiting for them to make the first move. Ever watch Musashi? Great old movie. You should watch the last duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. Classic.

But is patience always about winning?... Does it not have a deeper quality? The Zen-like quality that makes you smile from within, for you know it is good for your personal growth? Let me take you back to an event this morning, where I was floating on a little boat in the middle of the sea, waiting patiently for my dolphins to appear nearby me.

More than four dozen small boats were milled around me… as if they churned the ocean like that, the dolphins would appear from the water vortex. They did… the dolphins… appear for like 40-50 seconds before disappearing again. My boatman did nothing though ; just letting the boat afloat with the engine off. Then, out of the blue… the dolphins came to us.

We were elated, excited! They came!

… and then they left again, for as soon as they appeared, more than ten boats sped towards them. And once again, we were alone without the dolphins.

The event kept repeating itself until the boats got tired of the game and left the arena. Soon, there were only five of us, little boats floating at the big blue sea.

And then… one little dolphin jumped. Followed by another. And another. And soon… we found ourselves watching the dolphins feasting on their breakfast: juicy frigate mackerels… while we rummaged for our old boring snack to eat as we watch the dolphins. The snack was boring indeed… but the show was worth the wait.

So… coming back to my original question. What is Patience?

Now I see patience as one of the qualities or characters of alertness…awareness. It is one of the outcomes of awareness, of being alert and just BE in present moment. The Indonesian word for patience is ‘sabar’… and there is another word similar to that. ‘Disabar-sabarin’. Meaning, forcing oneself to be patient, though he/she is really truly yours faithfully NOT patient. A nice concept… which most definitely does not stem out of awareness, alertness. ‘Disabar-sabarin’ or ‘restraining yourself’ has the quality of insincerity, or at the very least mere obedience. You do not want to be patient, but you have to… otherwise a disaster will not be avoidable.

Interestingly, the very Indonesian word for ‘awareness’ or ‘being mindful’ is ‘sadar’. Sabar and Sadar. We only exchange B for D… and the whole context is different. Sabar (patience) to me is the product of Sadar (awareness). There can be no real patience without awareness.

Coming back to the example of dolphin watching, those who opt to turn off their engine and just wait for the dolphins to appear would often see that the dolphins would then appear and either approach them or swim alongside their boat. In this case, they are patient because they know that if they keep churning the waters with their noisy 12 PK outboard engine, the dolphins will unlikely appear for a significant amount of time for them to enjoy. Their awareness of the dolphin’s need of sufficient space and security lead them to turn off their engine and wait. Patiently.

And what do we do when we’re waiting patiently? We can chat with our travel mates, or talk with the boatman… or enjoy the picturesque sceneries… Or we can just sit down with straight back, relax, close our eyes… Then we breathe in and breathe out….enjoying the morning sun on our face, looking inwards to our own hearts.

Then, out of the silence, we hear that very familiar noise of ‘whoof, whoof’. The dolphin’s breathing. We open our eyes happily, knowing that they are here to see us. That they are here to grant us with their presence, thanking us for our patience.

And then we can allow ourselves a few moments of victory our patience brought us. The victory against our own impatience.

Then, what if the dolphins never come? Then, we will return home, knowing that at least we have exercised a good amount of aware waiting here… and that tomorrow we can do it again, until we see them one day. For we know that they are there to meet us… when we are ready to meet them with an open heart.

Pic 1: Siam Reap, Bayon moat. That’s my picture, by the way…
Pic 2: Batman and the dolphins! From Detective Comics #405, from Random
Pic 3: Buddha's peace within, from Infinite

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

From Romantic Relationship to Spiritual Journey

I’ve been thinking about the term ‘relationship’ lately, and how in spiritual world it seems to be counterproductive with one’s journey within. Well, from its track record, any kind of relationships – friendship, mother-daughter, father-son, or and particularly intimate relationship – often notoriously give adverse impact to one’s spiritual journey. Particularly intimate relationship, it has the large potentials to you needy, clinging, pining etc that eventually make you lose your self-respect. I often then understand how conscious people, inter alia but not limited to nuns and monks, choose to live celibate lives, for enough is enough. It is painful to go through a relationship. Why bother? Better get out and enjoy being alone.

But… but… How do I say this? I’m not saying that being alone is wrong. I think it’s great when you are alone and immensely happy with yourself. It’s great, it’s amazing. You feel whole, well… you ARE and always have been whole… and you feel that the world is in your hand. Or rather, you are melting and becoming part of the world. Part of Life. Trust me. It’s good. IT’S GREAT, and it’s peaceful. More over, it gives you time to thoroughly explore the journey within. It’s amazing and for some people – including me – it is the best thing that comes out of a single life. You become acquainted with yourself, and you are immensely happy with it. After all, Khalil Gibran put it most eloquently:

It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Sacred Moon, Sacred River: Celebrating my 5th year of living healthily

I was waiting in a domestic departure lounge for a delayed flight three nights ago when I saw a big discount in the local Periplus booth. Being a book aficionado, I had to go there and browse. That was when I found a very important book to me as a woman, and as a person: ‘Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdoms’ by Christiane Northrup, M.D. A New York Times Bestseller, and upon reading it randomly since two days ago, I have no doubts about its bestseller status.

The book is about – among others – how women’s bodies try to tell women what’s the best for them, that illness comes to tell the women what’s wrong with their lifestyle … and how the health of women is link to the health of the Earth. Completes with a great guidance of the seven chakras and how our problems with a particular chakra is likely to result in a health problem in particular organs. Very… new age. Very pagan… very me. In many ways, the book resonates well with an older post of mine about the joy of menstrual cycle, our sacred monthly rites.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

New AGORA trailers Rachel Weisz!

Okay... I don't want December 2009 to come quickly, cos I have looooads of things to beforehand... But when December comes, at least I have one thing to wait upon. Rachel Weisz's AGORA, where she plays as Hypatia, the last librarian of the Library of Alexandria.

Thanks to Pukimex for the HD version, I now really want to see it. Rachel is so awesome!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Annie Hathaway rocks!

Okay, she didn't win the 2009 Oscar, but I don't care. First, Anne Hathaway has stolen my heart (and I am straight!) since I saw her in Princess Diary, and then of course Becoming Jane... and several other movies. But also because I love Kate Winslet too, and I'm so happy that she finally wins. Kate deserves her Oscar (well, so does Meryl Streep), and I am sure that Annie will win her Oscar one day. What a girl... (and Annie loves Kate and Meryl too!).

But I just wanna share what Annie said to Barbara Walters in the pre-Oscar Specialon interview on 22 Feb 2009. Lots of good things there... and her words really remind me of important things in my life.

These are some quotes I love the most from the interview:
- "Being vulnerable is not being weak."
- "Love is not just about giving. It's about receiving as well."
- "I broke up with my Italian boyfriend, and then two weeks later he was sent to jail for fraud!" (Saturday Night's Live)

The first one relates very well to the second, and perhaps the 3rd one (which was about his &#^$ Italian boyfriend!). In the second quote, note that she didn't use the word 'taking'. She used 'receiving', which has a much wiser meaning than taking. Receiving requires you to open up to the whole world, to the Universe, to be receptive. What a girl, what a woman!

Annie, one day you will receive your Oscar. And meanwhile, you're still gonna be my girl!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Day 1: Bangkok to Varanasi

Day 1 (8 January 2009): Bangkok to Varanasi

The Swarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok was surely different from the old Don Muang airport I visited more than 4 years ago in November 2004. Don Muang back then was dusty and gloomy, and rather hot and uncomfortable. Now, in Swarnabhumi I felt like arriving in the second version of Singapore Changi Airport, with duty free shops and inviting cafés with wireless internet everywhere. You can even have a few hours of spa if you transit for more than 2 hours!

Bangkok is always memorable. Back then in November 2004, I was there for the nth IUCN Conference, and with loads of memories too beautiful and personal to reveal here… Now, in January 2009, I only transited for 6 hours, but it was a nice and fun transit. The first cup of hot coco that I tried was terrible; it was not even in the same zip code with second class hot coco, let alone Max Brenner. But the next one that I had as I enjoyed the free wireless internet was better. Still Max Brenner is da man!

The trip to Varanasi was delayed for 30 minutes or so. No complains. I had a window seat, from which I could see the Irrawaddy River meandering below, the Gulf of Bengal, Myanmar, and parts of Southern India. We stopped for 30 minutes or so in Bodhgaya, Bihar, where a thick layer of fog covered most of the horizon. It was amazing that we were able to land at all. I also should rewind a bit and informed that I had also seen Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) from above, before dawn where everything was still dark and sleeping, as I peeked from my Thai Air window. One day, I shall really visit other countries in Indochina as well. Godspeed, or rather, Goddess-speed.

I landed in Varanasi at about 3:30 pm local time, and went through a very short process of immigration, but a very annoying custom process, for the custom officers there asked me why I brought so many cameras; was I to sell them?! Well, I said, I am to visit His Holiness Dalai Lama for an Indonesia-made Buddha statue inauguration, and of course I need to bring many cameras! And it’s not really many, it’s just a standard pack. One SLR with standard lens, one 250mm zoom lens, one small digital camera, and one pocket digital camera (in case I want my pictures taken by friends or passer-by who are not familiar with SLR). Most definitely a standard pack for a semi-pro photography freak like myself. I should have carried a tripod and declared myself a real pro, and got more problems because of that. I knew that customs bloke wanted to make things difficult, but I persisted, and got away without having to pay anything. It was very annoying though. And porters. I did not ask for any porters, but a guy just persisted in helping me carrying my light-weighted stroll-luggage to the taxi. He glared at me when I didn’t give him tips. I glared back and gave him nothing. What a way to start my journey in India.

Entering Varanasi was like entering a small town in eastern Indonesia, or a less-developed suburbia of Jakarta. Rustic, with many worn-out billboards and signs of commercial and political ads. But by the Gods and the Goddesses, the worst part is… the DUST! I knew Varanasi, or Kashi as many people say, is dirty, but I never thought that it was THAT dirty and DUSTY. Well, I knew it was big, so I expected a metropolitan like Bangkok, or at least half of it. It might be 1/3 of Bangkok… but it definitely made Bangkok a much nicer and cleaner city in comparison to this beloved city of Lord Shiva.

I arrived at the Ideal Tower Hotel at almost 5 pm. Regrouping and mingling with my friends from Anand Ashram Indonesia, including my master Swami Anand Krishna, and then took a shower and had dinner. I exchanged news about the Buddha statue, and we received most relieving news that the statue would be inaugurated by His Holiness the day after, on 9 January. Praise Lord Buddha, Lord Shiva, and Mother Gangga! How lucky I was: one day later, and I
would have missed the precious inauguration completely!

Pic 1: Samudera Manthan (Churning of the Ocean) in Bangkok Swarnabhumi Airport
Pic 2: Me at the new Bangkok airport

Day 2: Sarnath, Varanasi

Day 2 (9 January 2009): Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

I shall never forget that day when I walked to the empty field next to Dalai Lama’s house in Sarnath and saw the stone Buddha statue sitting in lotus position, covered with white clothes and adorned with many candles and flowers… it was like a dream. I never thought that it would come true, that I would be able to come to Sarnath and see the statue inaugurated by His Holiness, with my Guruji next to him.

But it did come true. The Existence is too kind… I was allowed to witness the historic moment that reaffirmed the ancient spiritual and cultural ties between Indonesia, Tibet and India. The Buddha statue inauguration, the main reason for my first pilgrimage to India, at least this life time. From the Anand Ashram Indonesia website, this is the bits of the press release:

The morning fog has not cleared away when at His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama inaugurated and blessed a 2.5m high Buddha statue humbly offered by Indonesian interfaith spiritualist Anand Krishna. Conducted at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (Deemed University), Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh), India, the inauguration was covered by several Indian media, e.g. K TV, Z News, DD News and Hindustan Times. The Buddha statue is made of the same source materials used to build the 9th CE Borobudur Temple in Muntilan, Central Java, Indonesia, and was offered to reaffirm the spiritual and cultural ties between the peoples of Indonesia and Tibet, also to support His Holiness’ non-violent struggle to protect the cultural heritage of Tibet.

And this is the full link.

I spent the rest of the day busily with press release and uploading pictures; other pictures can be found here. It was a very tiring but satisfying day… Geshe Ngawang Samten, the professor and director of Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath was very kind to bestow each of the Anand Ashram members with beautiful white khata (ceremonial scarf). It’s truly a blessing, and sometimes I wonder, what did I do to deserve such blessings… and will I live up to it. Godspeed, I will.

Pic 1: Bapak Anand Krishna and His Holiness Dalai Lama with the 2.5m tall Buddha statue
Pic 2: Bapak Anand Krishna, His Holiness Dalai Lama, and very blessed Ashram members, including me

Day 3: Bodhgaya

Day 3 (10 January 2009): Bodhgaya (Bihar)

More than three times, I had looked at the map of India before and saw where Bodhgaya was… and imagined what it would be like to go there. Well, suffice to say that my picturesque image of beautiful greeneries where Lord Buddha sat in deep meditation at the bank of a clear water body 2,500 years ago dissolved in a speed of light when our two cars entered the vicinity of dusty and smoggy Bodhgaya. A man sitting next to me en route Bangkok-Varanasi already said that Bodhgaya was very dusty; to the point that you must wear a mask if you want to keep your lungs healthy. I didn’t believe him until I found myself in the dusty town. It was worse than Varanasi.

The temples were great, though. Bodhgaya’s income seems to be mainly generated from tourism, Buddhist pilgrimage tourism to be exact. There are many temple compounds around the town, ranging from Tibetan, Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Nepali. We just have to add an Indonesian temple there, and it should complete the configuration. We went to see a Japanese temple with a giant Nara-style Buddha in sitting dhyana mudra and to a Tibetan Buddhist temple. We also went to an old relic called Sujata Temple. This relic is almost 2,500 years old, and was named after a milk maiden who gave Baghavan Buddha some milk when He was meditating. But the best experience was going to the main Bodhi Temple itself.

The Bodhi Temple was built around the Bodhi tree where Buddha obtained His Enlightenment 2,500 years ago. It was fully packed with people, of course, and you have to take your shoes off and paid INR 20 for one camera. Not bad. The best part of the compound is where the Bodhi tree is, or rather, was. I am certain they planted a new tree years ago, for there is no way a Bodhi tree can survive more than two millennia. We sat there meditating, next to Guruji Anand Krishna, and I felt that immense peace that everyone always looked for. For a rustic path walker like me, it would be only 20% at the most of the peacefulness and enlightenment that Lord Buddha experienced, but it was so beautiful already… I could stay there for another 1-2 hours for meditation, had time not dictated us.

After the meditation under the Bodhi tree (I’m not sure if I received any insights yet…but the enlightenment process for someone as rusty as myself might take years to take effect…), we resumed with a more ‘down-to-earth’ mission: Shopping. Strolling the dusty shopping lane of the main Bodhi Temple, we went inside a shop that sold various wooden, brass and bronze statues. Mbok Wayan immediately fell for a piece of Kali and Shiva (I have to say that any pose of Shiva resting peacefully underneath Ma Kali’s foot is incredibly sexy…). Myself, inexplicably my hand reached for a statue the same time as Wayan reached for her. It was a standing brass Tara statue, with her clothes flowing as if caressed by the wind, her left hand in Abhaya (fear not, and also blessing) mudra and her right hand in the Varada (giving) mudra. As if dancing while protecting us. She reminds me of my Dakini statue at home, and I immediately fell for her. My eyes met Mbok Wayan’s, and with resignation I said that the statue was hers. But she shook her head and said that she did not like this Tara’s face for some reasons. I frowned and checked that the Tara: her Tibetan countenance looked beautiful and serene to me. But I did not complain of course. First: I really wanted the statue. Second: every piece of statue, especially those hand-made, is special and personal. The statue finds the person, not the other way around. In this case, the Tara statue does not find mbok Wayan. She found me instead. The Tara was then ‘mine’.

We had to wait for more than 45 minutes for our lunch, for seemingly the cook in the Sujata Restaurant where we chose to eat later decided that cooking with slow mindfulness will satisfy the empty stomachs of his guests. It was a quick and good lunch, but I didn’t eat too much, lest I might get motion sickness on the way back to Kashi. And shortly afterwards, we found ourselves back in our cars, heading back to the Beloved City of Shiva-ji, fighting our way back amidst the falling smog and occasional bad road.

I didn’t regret going to Bodhgaya. I went there with my Guruji who risked his own health for us, I meditated under the Bodhi tree, and I found my Tara statue. But the next trip shall not happen again unless they make a radical change in the pollution management of that town. Meanwhile, I shall have to visit the Buddha within me instead.

Pic 1: The giant Japanese-style Buddha inside the Japanese Buddhist Temple in Bodhgaya
Pic 2: Interior of the Tibetan Temple in Bodhgaya
Pic 3: The Bodhi site, where Bhagavan Buddha obtain the enlightenment 2,500 years ago

Day 4: Back to Varanasi

Day 4 (11 January 2009): Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

You’re not going to Varanasi if you have not gone to the Gangga River. So, I went there at 8ish in the morning with mbok Wayan and Sita, taking a very smelly thuk-thuk (auto-rickshaw) to Kedhar Ghat. After bargaining, we took off with a boat to the sand island across the river. Sita had wanted to step on the island since a few days ago when she went to the river for the first time, and I have to say it was not a bad idea. The scenery was picturesque, and it wasn’t as smelly as the main bank of Gangga.

Sita and I then tried to row the boat in Ma Gangga. We realised that it was not as easy as it seemed; we tried to row the boat, but it just went rotating at the same axis for 10-15 minutes. Surish-bhai the boatman laughed at us and took over the paddles again. Thanks to his professional rowing, we arrived at the other ghat in no time.

A trip to the Golden Shiva Temple was cancelled for we had to leave our shoes and – most importantly – camera (!) outside, so we went shopping instead. Just a piece of black kurta with beads and a yellow Shiva shawl, the latter came complete with the pungent odour of beetle nut. Oh, and a very nice sandstone statue of Buddha head with chubby face and friendly smile, and a pink Orissa stone small statue of Radha-Krishna with elaborate details. We also bought Bapak a very lovely pink stone Saraswati with her sitar.

After the shop-till-you-broke experience, we endeavoured to go to the Benares Hindu University with thuk-thuk, to no avail because as we arrived at the gate, we realised that it would be too late for us to go to Sarnath for His Holiness’ afternoon class. We hired another, a bigger, thuk-thuk and rerouted to Sarnath; a journey along the dusty roads of Varanasi that took almost an hour because that bloody driver took the opportunity to take other passengers too and went to various places. I think we were expensively robbed! Bastards!

Anyway… clear your mind, Padawan… After an exhausted journey, from which I learned that Varanasi was definitely worse than Jakarta in terms of traffic discipline, pollution and dust, we finally arrived at the dusty gate of Sarnath. Mbok Wayan and Sita opted to return to the hotel, but not before wandering around for a Tibetan skirt and a thangka. I chose to join the afternoon class, which was nice, but I honestly have to say that it would be much better for me to join Dalai Lama’s class in English next time, akin to the ones in Melbourne and Geelong in June 2008. I trust that His Holiness’ translators are excellent, but I prefer not to experience ‘lost in translation’ whatsoever. I think His Holiness is to visit Melbourne in December 2009. That’ll be another opportunity, eh? That is, if Dharamsala is too expensive for now.

After class, I strolled the dusty lane of Sarnath and bought a very lovely ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ thangka, black and red in colour, very beautiful. Plus a Bodhgaya style bag and a Tibetan praying flag. I found no available hotel or homestay in Sarnath, or if there was any, I couldn’t find it. I supposed the best course of action was to book another room in Ideal Tower for 14 January.

Despite my short visit to Sarnath, I learned one thing: I still respect His Holiness Dalai Lama’s decision for Tibetan autonomy, but I am also still 100% a supporter for a Free Tibet. There is no other way: Tibet has to be free, and the Existence better make it fast, or I shall launch my nth protest towards the Supreme Being for the utter injustice that has been happening in Tibet. Watching thousands of Tibetans in Sarnath faithfully attending His Holiness’ teaching (one man in front of me even did a series of praying in Tibetan way – looked very much like the combination of yoga and shalat – for more than 15 minutes!), I am proud of their persistence in maintaining their cultural identity despite the cruelty of Chinese government upon them. These people deserve to have their own land back; they have more right than any Chinese people (and any other people, including myself) to set foot in a Free Tibet, going in and out of the country as they wish, recreating and rebuilding their country as they believe in.

Tibet is a personal issue for me. More than once, people in Sarnath thought I was a Tibetan or someone from the Himalayan region. Perhaps…I was one of them in my previous life time. And now, my journey to Sarnath reaffirmed my belief in a Free Tibet, and I shall never tire of praying and helping them for that.

Pic 1: A boat and the seagulls hovering over Ma Gangga
Pic 2: Me and Sita trying to row the boat (to no avail)
Pic 3: People selling Tibetan crafts in Sarnath

Day 5: Varanasi to Khajuraho

Day 5 (12 January 2009): Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) to Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh)

No dust! I can breathe! Wow!

That was the first thing that came to mind as I stepped outside Jetair 0723 that took me from Varanasi to Khajuraho. Thank God, praise Lord Shiva, after 5 days of having to carry a breathing mask everywhere in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, I finally am able to breathe normally. And Khajuraho is much much cleaner than Varanasi. In fact, it is the cleanest place I’ve visited so far. The airport is small, about the same size as Varanasi’s, but much cleaner and tidier. Superb.

The evening air is cool and fresh now, and the moon just rises in the east, casting its golden yellow reflection. When I arrived this afternoon at 3pm-ish, it was 23C. Now it might be around 11C. Lovely.

My flight to Khajuraho was almost cancelled due to thick fog. Londoners beware; your beautiful foggy city is nothing compared to UP, Bihar and MP fogs. In fact, they did cancel my Indian Airlines flight to KHJ due to the fog, and thus I have to contact Travelocity to get the refund. Worse, I had to pay almost INR 7,400 (almost AUD 350) for the Jetair ticket, for it’s the last minute purchase. Cheating, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not my fault that the fog arrived and Indian Airlines got cancelled. What they (IA and Jetair) could do was at least giving me the same price as the IA ticket VNS-KHJ, which was INR 3,400. Two elderly Dutch ladies that were supposed to travel with me to KHJ cancelled their plan to this town and rerouted to New Delhi instead, albeit grudgingly, and with big complaints. I understand that. In fact, had I not really really wanted to go to Khajuraho, I would have cancelled the trip anyway. I mean, adding another AUD 175 for something that is not my fault… somebody should strangle the Indian airway system with their own hands. Heh, I might do that myself!

But what can you do? I don’t wish to visit New Delhi anyway… which would be my second choice if the flight was truly cancelled. Going back to the hotel and stay in Varanasi for the next 3 days is a big NEHI. Going by road is INR 9,000 and it takes at least 12 hours on a bad road. Non, merci. Nehi, memsahib. And honestly anyway, I don’t regret my decision in persisting to come to Khajuraho.

The first time I saw the greeneries amidst the clearing fogs from above, I knew that Khajuraho would be different from Varanasi. And what a great place it is! For a student like me, AUD 175 is very very expensive… but for the sundari, beauty, I found here, it might be worth it. Yes, I think is… And really, I am SO lucky. For the last three days, there was no flight going in and out of Khajuraho due to the fog. Today was the first day of flight back to operation, and I truly thank Shiva-ji for lending His trident to clear the fog away.

The entire township of Khajuraho is only 10km width, or so they say. Upon passing by the central town, it might be similar to Ubud… the way I saw the main Shivadev Temple that is situated in the middle of the town, surrounded by shops etc… their grids and configuration is similar to Ubud. I stay in Yogi Sharma Ashram, a bit at the outskirt of the town. So far, this guest house is excellent. INR 500 (AUD 17) per night for the room upstairs, garden view. My room is as beautiful as you can get with INR 500. Clean, inner bathroom with 24 hours hot shower, and very nice stone shelves upon which I placed my new Khata from Geshe Ngawang Samten in Sarnath, the new brass Tara statue, the sandstone Buddha head and the pink Orissa stone Radha-Krishna. I have my own altar now… alas, no agarbati. Oh well… perhaps tomorrow I shall buy some.

The moon is about 30 deg now above at the east. It was yellow half an hour ago, but now is silver white. Beautiful. It reminds me of the saffron sunset I saw a few hours ago as I explored the wilderness of Ken Gharial Sanctuary. The driver took me there to see a waterfall… a few waterfalls actually. Not much water in this season, but the combination of black, pink, and greenish stones cascading into various geological formations was amazing. I still have to cut back my expenses as I return to Australia (as if I haven’t done that anyway), and I have to be VERY careful with my expenses here, particularly for the souvenirs… but I did not regret the trip to the waterfall.

I went by car, but then at the gate my driver rent a motorbike, and thus I only had to pay INR 350 in total. Saved me loads of money, for I would have to pay INR 1,000 if we were to go by car! I saw a peacock, but failed to get the picture. Several antelopes, including a proud black male… a monkey with blackish face, just like a Javanese lutung… and several parakeets. It was a very short trip, only less than an hour… but hey, beggars can’t be choosers!

It’s getting rather cold now… Bummer. I wish I brought my gloves with me. Might it hit 8 C or below tonight? Hopefully this tropical specimen survives the night. I will go to the temples tomorrow morning, perhaps after the free yoga session in the morning. And hopefully will be able to get 1-2 good books, and some beads. No statue, except for something Khajuraho-ish, but it has to be small and light. And I really really have to cut on my expenses, for I am broke to the last cents, truthfully over-budget, and have no more space in my little baggage. Thank God it’s stipend payday tomorrow.

(Written on 12 January 2009, hence the present tense)

Pic 1: Cascading pink rocks at the Khajuraho waterfall
Pic 2: The serene upper balcony of the Yogi Sharma Ashram
Pic 3: The lakes formed by waterfalls (the waterfalls were nonexistent in the winter)