This morning I was having a shower, again mentally condemning the latest shampoo I am using. Since switching to this shampoo, my scalp gets oily very fast, & I've been counting the days to when I can get a new bottle of shampoo.
But today, something clicked within me. There was a voice inside which asked, 'Why you condemn the shampoo woh? Just because it doesn't work for you, doesn't mean it is not working for someone else!'
Bloody hell! Can you say, revelation???
Why are we always quick to condemn something when it doesn't benefit us or doesn't live up to our expectations? Instead of saying, 'This brand of shampoo is useless,' I could have said, 'This brand of shampoo doesn't suit me.'
Similarly, in our relationships with others, if the other behaves in a way which we don't like, we are quick to pass negative judgement.
Think about it - when was the last time someone close to you behaved in a way which was against your belief system? Or to hit harder - how did you feel when your romantic interest rejected you? How did it feel when your best friend did not live up to your expectations?
Just because a relationship doesn't work anymore, doesn't mean that it was shit to begin with. Doesn't mean that either one or both of you are shit people. On the contrary. Yes, even the most awesome-est of people outgrow each other. & that isn't always a bad thing. In fact, one of my favourite phrases is 'life begins after divorce'. Yep, I'm not exactly the best person to seek common relationship advice from! Bahahahah!
But it is the truth though; why stay in a situation where both are unhappy - I look at you & I feel shitty inside, so I give you shit; you look at me & you are not happy so you give me shit...try to imagine that in its literal sense, with shit all around the room. Who needs a fan when you can throw your own shit around!
The only constant in life is change. This includes people & relationships too. To be able to let go of people & things with love - aha, now that's the challenge!
Do you see the irony though? We don't vibe with a person anymore, and automatically we start condemning & finding fault with that person, the one who we previously held so dear to our hearts. Is love such a wavering thing? Is it so dependent on the other? & if it is dependent on the other (which is essentially an external factor), was it ever love to begin with?
Condemnation always takes place when the ego has been bruised. The ego always thinks in terms of 'me me me'. When the other doesn't prioritize us, the ego becomes indignant & fights to maintain its false sense of security, either by creating arguments with the other in an attempt to get them to behave the way we want them to, or by condemning. Make sense?
When people don't fit into the idea we have of them, in our minds we automatically label these people as 'wrongdoers'. But how you know you're not the wrongdoer in someone else's eyes? & at the end of the day, what is wrong & what is right? Who are we to judge each other?
Just love each other. Love is friendship set on fire. But don't allow that fire to burn the whole bloody house down. Because when 'love' comes into the picture, usually possession starts to take place too. & we try to tame the free, wild being that we fell in love with.
To love someone is to allow them the freedom to be completely themselves, whether it suits you or not, whether it hurts your goddamn ego or not. Your ego is your own problem, don't give shit to someone else just because you can't control your own ego!
Point to be noted though: loving & respecting each other doesn't mean tolerating bullshit. Recognize & acknowledge when someone treats you like crap, & if necessary, remove yourself from the equation. At the end of the day, you are only responsible for your well being, & not anyone else's.
This is an edited version of my previous post here: http://eeleeong.blogspot.my/2016/07/shampoo-relationship-revelations.html
Frankly, till today I still struggle to find the balance between being authentic in my individuality & living up to others' expectations of me. Sometimes there is a lot of pressure to live up to the public's idea of what a yoga teacher should be - how one should behave, how one should talk, how one should present herself...how many yoga selfies one should upload...
How much should one bend over (pun intended!) to conform to the demands of the current market, to earn a decent living?
When I first started teaching, I used to think that I have to show everyone that *I am someone*...'Yes, I can do this pose,' 'Yes, I know my shit,' 'Yes, I am fit/spiritual as hell & rocking it'...
I used to feel so bad about myself when people did not like my classes. It was as though I was doing something wrong, or I was not good enough. I felt like I had to constantly prove myself to everyone, & I had to earn my place in the yoga community.
Of course it is imminent that there will be people who judge you according to your physical capabilities, how you dress & how you present yourself. I guess at the end of the day it all boils down to synchronicity. Teacher-ji always said, 'What kind of teacher will attract that kind of student'...& it's so true! A student who comes to yoga to learn inversions will definitely not attend a Yin Yoga class - it's just basic logic. Similarly, not everyone appreciates a teacher who is too laid-back; it doesn't make either the teacher or the student wrong, it's just a matter of different approaches, different perspectives & different intentions.
Over time I have come to accept that I can't make everyone happy all of the time. I can only offer what I have experienced, & what is within my heart. Just like how I can't for the life of me write something if I don't fully resonate with the topic; I cannot teach what is not my truth.
When I first started teaching, my father (a University lecturer for the past 30+ years) said, 'Learning is the main focus, not teaching. Teaching can take place but if no learning takes place, then the teaching is a waste of time.'
Wahlaueh, my father & Krishnamacharya so kawan baik one ha!?! Bahahahahah!
Students come to class not to 'see show'...they come to learn. Regardless of what their intention is - to improve physical/mental health, stress-relief, etc...the essence is still there; the desire to learn something. & most of the time you can't teach according to your own physical capabilities & how your own mind & body functions. Yes, as a teacher of course you have to really understand yourself before you can even begin teaching. But you also have to respect & appreciate your students as individuals in their own right, so that you can teach them the right way to practice, according to their own current level of physicality & understanding. You have to be able to relate to them, so that the message gets across.
Yoga is a highly personal practice. I always say that when you go clothes shopping, there are different sizes of clothes available, simply because people are of different sizes. So you don't buy a size 38 pair of pants & then eat/starve yourself until you can fit into them! Same goes with yoga, you don't fit the human into the pose, instead you need to tailor the pose according to the human!
If you ask me what my idea of a yoga teacher is, I would say that a yoga teacher is not anyone higher or better than their students. Teacher-ji always said, 'Don't think of it as teaching, think of it as sharing. Just share whatever you have learnt, whatever you have discovered.'
You can't teach from upon a pedestal. It's just basic human nature - people are usually willing to learn, but they are not always willing to be taught. Heck, even I experience this seemingly unreasonable stubbornness! So if a teacher enters with the idea to show that she is someone 'better' than her students, then the whole gestalt is wrong from the get-go, because the intention is not for learning/sharing to take place, & there is resistance on the part of the student towards whatever the teacher has to say.
A teacher is there to serve the students. A teacher provides a service to others. & if you look deeper into it, without the students, the teacher cannot exist. So the whole focus is 'how can I be of service'. If a teacher wants to deliver the message clearly & efficiently, there cannot be any idea of ego. A teacher's life is ultimately a life of seva*.
There is no 'right' & 'wrong'. Everyone is at different points of their journey, & there are many paths leading to the same destination. I am learning not to take it personally when people walk out of my class halfway through. I am learning that life is not a competition. I don't have to prove myself to the people who I am meant to cross paths with. I don't have to earn my place in the world, because I am me, & I have my own unique gifts to share with others. If they recognize this, it is okey. Even if they don't, it's still okey! :)
Sometimes, something speaks. I can't say if it from within or without, nor from where it comes from. It just comes. Last month, this message came:
'Just share. Share whatever you have. Even if only one person turns up to class, whosoever it is, you teach full-heartedly, the same as you would if it was a full house. Because that one person has trusted you enough to come learn from you. That one person has the thirst for knowledge & has come to your doorstep.
& always keep the Master in your heart. For he has shown you the way, he was the middleman towards your liberation. Yes, in the end even the Master has to be forgotten, but always remember his grace & love towards you. Because the Master has never asked anything in return, his goal is your realization, your enlightenment. & he had to think of how to guide you towards the right path, according to your character, according to your disposition, your tendencies; it is not an easy task, but he has done it! Is there any greater love than this? & when you remember the Master's grace & love, how can you harm another? How can you turn away those who seek?
& don't fall into the trap of the ego! Realize your nothingness; that the teachings are not from you yourself. The teachings came from the Master, the Master learned from his Master, & so on...the teachings do not belong to anyone. Are you going to keep these Universal Truths all to yourself? Actually without the student, there can be no teacher. The teacher learns just as much, if not more, than the student, instead of vice versa.
So share. Share without any expectations of gratitude, compensation, or even acknowledgement. Deliver the message. & if it makes a positive impact on even just ONE person, it is more than enough.'
'I am a yoga teacher...I am someone...'
Bahahahah..! I am no one, don't put me on a pedestal, don't have any high expectations of me...just let me be myself!' :P :P :P
* In the Sikh tradition, there are three aspects which are fundamental towards the devotee's faith, the first of which is Seva (service or work provided without any thought of personal reward/benefit).
Where does one draw the line between following one's heart & doing what one needs to do to survive in the world?
One of the best pieces of advice I have received about decision-making is to write out on paper the pros & cons of the situation, & then compare them. Sounds simple enough, yet immensely powerful. What I really loved was his end statement: 'Then you know the decision is totally yours, & you don't blame anyone else if something goes wrong'. Or something to that effect. :P
Yes, our choices in life reflect the decisions we make. & life would be so much easier when we start to accept responsibility for our choices. But it is the nature of the human mind is to take credit whenever things go well, & throw the blame on others when they don't.
Well, suffice to say, I never did get down to making that list. I guess it's not the way my being functions. (Yes, 'rolls eyeballs emoticon* indeed, dear friends!)
You know how sometimes something resides within your heart, something which is completely illogical, which is beyond all reasoning........yet it still exists, & continues to exist, even yonks later?
& sometimes, something just doesn't seem right, & no matter how, you just. can't. explain. why?
Even if everything is working in your favour & seem fail-proof, what is the use of going into it if your heart is not in it? On the other hand, if you have love & passion for what you do, somehow, you will always find a way to make things work. :)
Of course the mind is always suspicious of the heart, because it doesn't adhere to any known rules. It just wants what it wants. & of course there will be times when things go utterly, miserably wrong. But wasn't it worth a try? Is it not better to have gone through the whole experience instead of wondering 'what if'? & just because one experience turned out unpleasant, does that mean that we should in future turn a deaf ear to the things our heart is saying?
If things really do go wrong, can we not blame ourselves for not being 'more reasonable'?
Nick Seluk of www.theawkwardyeti.com always takes a light-hearted approach to the ongoing battle between the heart & the brain.
This video of Lisa Nichols recounting her personal story goes to show how everything just falls into place when your heart is in it:
'Conviction & comfort don't live on the same block. If you're gonna be convicted about something, you might have to go through some discomfort. But if you wanna stay comfortable, why don't you just relax where you are, coz that's where you gonn stay.'
I love this photo by my dear friend Gaurav. When I first saw it, I thought to myself, 'Where is this place where no Sadhana is needed? I need to live there!' Bahahahahah!
Indeed, when you heart is in it, all Sadhana occurs naturally. Then, you just do what you have to do - you don't need to be given a set of rules/guidelines, even hard work doesn't seem that hard, the things which you need to put aside are not seen as 'sacrifices', & everything is rooted in happiness, even though on the surface level it may look like misery to others.
In spirituality, in work, in love, in life; the same principle applies. Unless the person you are dating asks you to prove your love by placing your hand on a hot chapati pan; that's when you tell them 'Sorry love, you've gots to go!'
If you have to convince yourself to like what you are doing, are you truly happy?
& if you have to convince yourself to deny the things in your heart, are you really living?
Your heart knows, my darlings. Listen to it.
Sometimes it may be just a whisper.
But believe me, it speaks.
Beware: Don't choose the convenient, the comfortable, the respectable, the socially acceptable.
Choose something that rings a bell in your heart.
- Osho -
When I was attending Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, a fellow coursemate, who at that time was already an accomplished yoga teacher in his own right, said that in India, parents did not usually allow their daughters to marry yoga teachers.
Which, of course, invoked gasps of horror & disbelief amongst us Malaysians. Like, WHY. Up till then, we (or at least, myself) always thought that yoga teachers were the cool kids who everyone wanted to sit with during recess.
It has taken me almost two years to understand the reasons behind this seemingly unfounded disdain towards yoga teachers as worthy suitors. Here are my findings so far:
1. A yoga teacher is very much capable of waking you up at 3am to ask you with utter sincerity, ‘Darling, what do you think the meaning of life is?’ or ‘If everything is just a projection of our own inner minds, does that mean you’re not real & are just a figment of my imagination?’
As if that’s not bad enough, they will insist you practice yoga with them daily, at Brahmamuhurta time, no less, which is between the hours of 3.30am to 5.30am. Game of Thrones marathon? Socializing & building relations with family & friends? Ain’t got nothin’ on Brahmamuhurta time, yo!
& no, coffee is Rajasic, not Sattvic, so lay off!
2. The answer to almost anything which ails you will be, ‘There is a yoga pose for that!’ They will correct your posture all the time, and even go so far as to physically adjust you while you are sleeping, because we don’t want to mess up our Kundalini flow now, do we?
AND…you know those people who get irritated by the slightest things their poor unassuming partner does? Yep, you guessed it. You're sitting on the couch watching the telly or reading a book & a yoga teacher will tell you, ‘You’re breathing wrong. Stop it.’ You’ll probably have a hard time arguing with them about this one, what with those years of Pranayama studies & practices they have under their belts. Bugger.
3. Speaking about Pranayama, when you are in the middle of an argument, & you’re going off about this & that & whatnot, a yoga teacher can look you dead calm in the eyes & say, ‘Just breathe. It will pass’. Which would probably infuriate you even more, but then, ‘Impermenance, yo…don’t identify with your anger…just watch it’.
However! If you attempt to apply this philosophical tactic on a yoga teacher, they will throw a crying tantrum & tell you, ‘You’re not in touch with your feelings’ or ‘How are we going to grow as a couple if you’re not willing to open up?’ Meh. You can’t win. Ever. Sorry.
4. Can you imagine the amount of white clothing??? & Shiva forbid that you mess up the laundry once…*just once*…& their sock (of course it has to be one from their favourite pair) becomes off-white! Oh, how un-yogic…the Gods of Yoga curse thee to three hours of Chaturanga practice to atone for thy sins.
You got it all wrong, buddy. Run. Run as fast as you can. & don't look back. Never look back.
5. Let’s not even talk about how the whole house smells like sandalwood, the door knobs have somehow been laced with coconut oil, & you inadvertently catch yourself whistling the Hare Krishna mantra during office hours. (By the way, most of that sandalwood & coconut oil have stuck to your person, so people can now smell you from a mile away)
So. Maybe Indian parents really do know what’s best for their babies. 😉
Thou hast been warned!
In the end, all it took was some discarded chapati, kadai paneer & dal. & I just burst into tears for the next hour or so.
It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
Returning home after teaching a night class, I intended to heat up some great food my friend had cooked. Only to search the fridge from top to bottom & finally find everything in the rubbish bin.
Holy schmoly, unleash the floodgates!
Looking back, it seems like such a petty thing to get upset about. But after about 15 minutes into my bawling, I realized it was a blessing in disguise. I was finally able to admit to myself that I had been suppressing some pretty strong emotions for the past few weeks.
Which got me thinking: how often do we suppress our true emotions?
At the workplace, you have to 'be strong', because it's a dog eat dog world out there, & one should never show weakness, lest the predators pounce. Or your job requires a lot of public relations, so you are always required to carry a cheerful & smiley personality, because nobody likes a sourpuss, so anything less than Mr/Miss Sunshine = bad for business.
At home, you don't share your sadness/troubles because you don't want your family members to worry about you. So, again with the 'all-is-well' act; probably even throw in an extra hearty laugh or two into the mix just to make it even more convincing.
Yes, dear friends; we are each responsible for ourselves. & any mature person would understand the need to sort out their own shit by themselves instead of throwing it on others (more about this here: aaapan-gaand-hawai-dusar-ke-kare-dawai.html).
So you stand at the driveway, smile broadly & wave goodbye to your loved ones as the taxi drives off.
You bring out your best jokes when you are out with colleagues.
& you fake smiles for the ones you love the most, sometimes even with those who you know damn well love you in return & understand you better than yourself.
Because what can others do for you? So why trouble them? Especially if you already understand that everything is impermanent & 'this too shall pass', how many more times do you want to have the same conversation about the same thing?
It isn't always the case that someone is too sensitive, or even dramatic. It isn't that they are weak. You never really know what a person is going through. Maybe you just happened to be in the vicinity when that last bloody piece of straw broke the camel's back.
True, meditation helps you understand that everything comes & goes. But I always say, philosophy is not a dead thing. There is no one philosophy to end all other philosophies. Life is situational. Sometimes, all you need is someone to relate to, human to human. At other times, you need some time alone to sort out your thoughts. Either way, it's a-okey. What matters is that you are true to your own needs, each time.
Are you truly present, or are you numb? :P :P :P
I really love this statement: It's ok to not be ok.
In fact, let me take that up a notch. It's more than ok to not be ok! It means that you are still alive. It means that you have not numbed yourself to this beautiful world.
What is essential is that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off & get going again. No matter how slow you do it: Just. Move.
Am I going to apologize for being 'too much' for some? Never! My ability to feel things deeply is what has helped me tremendously in my journey. It is what gives birth to my writings. It is what helps me connect with my students at the soul level.
Yes, we come into this world alone, & we will go alone. Yet at my times of utter despair, it was the people around me who picked me up. I am the accumulation of the small, big, random, un-random acts of kindness shown to me by others.
In the movie Spirited Away, after all her trials & tribulations, Zeniba gives Chihiro a hair tie & says:
It will protect you. It's made from the threads your friends wove together.
You are not alone. There is always, always someone who cares & understands.
Decide. Decide what you need at this moment in time - whether it is some time alone to process things, a heart to heart conversation, what? Then get back onto your path. & always remember to pay it forward whenever possible. :) :) :)
You are responsible for your own life. But isn't it comforting to know that there are people out there who are always there for you when you need it?
Everyone hits a low point every once in a while, & sometimes we need a shoulder to lean on, no matter how big, dark, silly or inconsequential the issue at hand may seem.
When we are at our most vulnerable, we need people whom we can trust, & who will accept us for who we are at that moment in time & not judge us. We need people who have the patience to let us go through the motions & gently help us figure shit out.
Yes, of course we can't expect others to always drop everything & be there for us all the time, especially if we are not committed to making any effort to step out of our own bullshit. But once in a while it is nice to have someone who cares, & is willing to give you a helping hand.
To me, there is an art to being there for someone. The term commonly used nowadays is 'holding space'. This does not only mean that the other is merely a good listener, it also means that 'whatever happens in the space, stays in the space'. See, to have the integrity to not blab to someone else about the conversation; & not use whatever was talked about nor the speaker's weaknesses against him/her in future...now that's priceless.
That's truly priceless, dear readers.
If you ever find someone who is able to hold space for you, please hold on tight to them. These people are undercover angels. ;) ;) ;)
We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage & risk.
- Thomas Moore -
I'm grateful to have people who are able to hold space for me. I'm also grateful that we can talk on & on till the wee hours of the night, laughing, crying, sharing our experiences & learning from each other, even if our life paths differ greatly. Even after not being in touch for yonks, just one call & it's like nothing ever changed.
Relationships are beautiful when both have sincere love for each other. When neither one thinks themselves higher than the other, & there is no idea of domination or control. Then everything flows naturally.
I don't know why, but each time I'm going through a difficult time, the Universe sends someone from far away to help me out. One of the most amazing things in life is when you just meet someone & it's like you've known them for years, or you just click naturally & everything just pours out from within. You just 'get' each other. You don't judge them, & they don't judge you, no matter how silly either of you may seem to others. & you know that, they will always be willing to help you out in any way they can, even if that means giving you the proverbial tight slap on the face with the hard truth.
Thanks to the Internet, I have sometimes even found strength in the most unlikely strangers halfway around the world. There have been times when I was all weepy under my covers & a short text conversation helped me regain my sanity. Sounds foolish, but in my experience, there are times when you just need to hear someone else state the things which are already in your head, so that you can completely comprehend & accept the situation at hand.
Sometimes, you just need to know that somebody cares. & although I don't know when I will meet these dear friends of mine again, & there are some whom I may never ever come face to face with; those few moments in time made all the difference in my life, & I am grateful.
Woy, Universe, send lah someone who is at least in my time zone! Why you so like this ha! :P :P :P
Of course, the quality of a relationship cannot be determined by how much time you spend together, nor how long you have known each other. But you can't deny the impact one person can have on another during the latter's moments of despair.
Two things to remember:
1. Never take people for granted. You never know what their story is. Always be kind.
2. There is always someone out there who cares. It's okey to not be okey. You just need to reach out & there will always be someone there to catch you. I promise.
I will always remember this parable Gurumukh told us:
We are all walking together on a dark path, & one person is holding a flashlight. If the person with the flashlight is walking too far ahead, the ones at the back will be left in darkness. Same thing if he is too far back. So, if he is too far ahead, he should slow down so the others can catch up, & the others need to make an effort to catch up. If he is too far back, he needs to walk faster, & the others need to slow down. We need to walk together, so that we can share the light & reach our destination together.
This mixed media piece I did last July (oh damn, has it been that long???):
'Ripple Effect. Core Connections.'
Each soul we cross paths with affects us to a certain extent, whether we like it or not, & whether we realize it or not.
The question is, how many actually touch your very centre? How many do you allow close enough to see your one, true self? & how many are sincere enough to want to know the real you?
Given these two variables, how many people have touched your centre?
We come into this world alone, & we will leave it alone. But in between, it is the heartfelt connections we create with others which makes life beautiful.
(Image courtesy of Su Yen)
Now the petals are falling. Evening has come. The sun has set, the night will take over. The death has come, the petals are falling towards the earth. They don't hesitate. They don't know where they are going, they don't know whether there is an earth down there or not - maybe it is a bottomless abyss - but they don't doubt, they don't hesitate.
(...) Petals falling, fluttering down towards the earth. Simply trust - do not the petals flutter down just like that? & everything - God, moksha, nirvana - everything, I say to you, becomes possible.
Just trust. Just like that.
- Osho -
When I was in Rishikesh last year, I wrote this:
After ten months, here I am again!
Although my beloved Rishikesh is not the same, & the Ganga is much more ferocious than when I first met her, I am learning a lot about myself this trip.
Sometimes you need to remove yourself from your usual environment to check in with yourself as to where you are in life. What is important to you? Who are the people who matter? Are you living the life you want? Are you living *at all*?
One question I always thought I knew the answer to is, 'What do you want to be?' I'm very glad to report that nowadays I'm very sure that I don't know what I want to be. It was a soft voice, but has grown loud & strong. 'I don't know.' It is one of the most beautiful statements in life.
I never would have imagined I would have this life. So how should I know what I want to be, what I should be? All I know is that the Universe has my back, & I'm excited to see what the future holds!
Hair drier, skin two tones darker, feet dirtier, sweaty & sticky in the monsoon weather; yet these are among the happiest days of my life. Words cannot even begin to express how I feel.
Ganga Maaya Ki Jai!
Most of the time, I'm gobsmacked at how my life has turned out. & it continues to stun me what the Universe has planned for me.
However, this 'not knowing' isn't always easy! The ego always wants that false sense of security, of being in control, of knowing not only the final destination but also the route, the possible detours, the weather forecast, ETA, yadda yadda yadda.
Then, 'not knowing' starts becoming a frightening thing.
'What am I going to do?'
'What about my plans?'
What do I want in life? This question has been making its rounds in my mind ever since those days in Rishikesh. Sometimes, it is easy to say, 'I don't know'. But other times, it is a struggle surrendering to the Universe.
This fear is all too familiar. Yet it is a unique & new experience in its own right. Throughout the day, it goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. One minute my tears are tears of happiness & gratitude, the next they are of fear & sadness. Sometimes, they are both at the same time.
I don't know.
I am just observing these things, coming & going. Observing the emotions, observing my clinging to them, observing my letting go of them...
I don't always know what I want in life.
But I do know what I want from life.
I want to travel. I want to see the world. I want to be around people who are roaring mad & have a zest for life. I want to experience life in its entirety. I want to be me, & not have to be apologetic nor ashamed about it.
It would be nice to have someone to share the journey with. But it is equally wonderful to have the freedom of not being answerable to anyone.
Feck, I don't know. I don't know a shit about anything. Yet I know a few things. That must count for something, right?
Fast forward almost a year later, & I am still experiencing those same sentiments. The fear is still very much there, but I can say that I surrender more easily now. It still scares the shit out of me that I don't fit into the idea of what an adult is (well, the version that I grew up believing in, anyways). Sometimes I wonder if The Mother was right: 'How long can you be a hippy for?' Damn. Just typing those words makes everything seem so surreal.
But by & by, it has been shown to me that I cannot work purely for money. The last time I did, I got stomped on the foot by a horse & it took me months to recover. Lesson learnt.
However, the Universe is a benevolent one. It always provides when necessary. I remember the time before I'd ever been to India. We were planning to attend Teacher Training in Rishikesh. I had quit my day job few months earlier, & being a fairly new yoga teacher, did not have many classes. So afraid of not having enough cash to pay for the course, I avoided the matter altogether until the last minute - taking out the envelope of money containing all the class payments I'd received, nervously counting them all...the grand total came to just about RM200 more than I needed. I'll never forget that moment when I clutched those goddamn paper notes to my chest & wept like a biatch. Bahahahahah!
I'm not a business-minded person. I can't brain money, politics, sales, networking, branding & what-not. But miraculously, things always work out in the end. & I am extremely blessed that to have crossed paths with people who help me along the way. I believe that people are inherently good, & are willing to share or help out in whatever way they can; but of course don't expect them to run through hell & back all the time lah...that one melampau batas loh (crossing the line)..! Either through emotional/mental support, sharing of experiences, sharing of food (om nom noms!), etc...each & every form of assistance is a blessing. & I hope to be able to return the favour(s), & pay it forward whenever necessary.
By the way, today Facebook told me that I made 100 friends in the past year. Mindfuck. How is that even humanly possible???
Image from www.introvertdoodles.com
So what am I actually doing here in this world, in this lifetime? Maybe it is to share my journey? It feels narcissistic to think so. It seems scary. Because who am I to discuss philosophy? Will I be able to handle the fact that my viewpoints will piss at least one person off? Will the future me look back on everything & cringe in shame?
I don't know.
But what I do know is that being vulnerable is necessary. It is so much easier to show the real you than to hide behind a mask all the time. Showing my real self, I've found true friends. Showing my real self, I've had people tell me how much my writing helped them through a rough patch in life. Being 100% is freedom.
I find that I can't forgo the things that my heart beats for. I cannot deny the things which remain, even as the days go by, even as other things come & go. The things which stubbornly cling to me, although I try to shake them off or distract myself with other things. Although these things may seem foolish or even crazy, even to myself, I cannot deny them any longer. It's true, sometimes I myself can't make sense out of things, & I wonder if I am truly going bonkers. Quite scary-fying lah. Huhuhu...but what to do?
I think I've had enough of playing small. I've gained this much so far, let's see what the Universe will bring now. ;) ;) ;)
It is true that we all have an inner GPS, & that no external influence is necessary to guide us through life - we will get where we need to be sooner or later, we need to be authentic to ourselves, yadda yadda yadda. But in my experience, a guru's grace is invaluable. In any relationship, love is the most vital ingredient; & the student-teacher one is no exception. A real guru's love is such that he always has the student's ultimate welfare in mind, even though it may not be apparent, or may even seem otherwise. He does not create a bondage out of his students. He gives the student the joy of their own freedom & independence.
After teaching for two years, I now appreciate the presence of the guru more. Today I suddenly remembered the last day of my first Teacher Training course back in 2014. We were having a sharing session, & I said, 'I don't know what to say, but...my life is the proof of his teachings.'
Oh fuck, if only I knew what that would entail in the years to come! Bahahahah!
Somehow, I've always had this sick satisfaction when being disturbed by my guru, even though I may not have shown it or sometimes may not even have been aware of it. Never could put a finger on it until now. Damn.
You never know when & how a guru is imparting his teachings to you. If you are unaware, or 'asleep', so to say, you may miss the lesson. & the lesson isn't always pleasant, it can seem like a swift jab in the eyeballs!
I'm no guru, & don't intend to be one. In fact, the mere thought of being a guru scares the shit out of me, because it is a very heavy responsibility. Out of love, the guru carries a big responsibility towards his students, & is there any rest when it comes to love? Eh, tired you know! I imagine it's probably something like taking care of an infant, you need to always be on the lookout for the brat to make sure nothing goes horribly wrong, yet allow them the freedom to learn/explore by themselves…oh damn, my brain feels fried already!
As humans, it is not always easy to accept the fact that we can't please everyone all the time. & as a teacher, I had to learn to accept criticism, be it constructive or otherwise. I had to learn that everyone is on different paths in life, & that what I have to offer will not be accepted by everyone. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received about teaching is that if out of a thousand people, I positively affect the life of even just one…just *one* person, it is more enough. & boy is that true. That feeling that I get when a student *finally* understands, & the happiness of watching a student's asana practice go beautifully, that feeling of actually observing someone's life change for the better...to me, that is the real joy of teaching. & this is also why when I think of my guru, tears of gratitude start pouring down. Because it was he who made me the person I am today.
My understanding of what a guru is? Well, a guru is a God. But then again, God is in everyone & everything. What makes a guru different is that somehow, by some crazy crossing of the stars & planets, this particular person has been brought into my life so that God can work His way to me. A guru is an instrument of God. He is a godsend. A guru is to be adored, without forgetting that he too is human, that he too has his own path, that he is just a medium. He is not to be worshiped as God Himself. He is not to be put on a pedestal. The student-teacher relationship, like any other relationship, is a volatile dynamic. It isn't necessarily a life-long relationship. The guru isn't obliged to be with you throughout your life, & you aren't obliged to follow him forever. Some gurus just show up at important points of your life, then disappear forever.
Even if sometimes you think he is against you, a guru has your best interest at heart. Out of compassion, a guru can kill you, because he knows that this 'you' needs to die before the real you emerges. & you may never know what he is teaching you, until yonks later. & then you laugh & think to yourself, 'Why my teacher like this ah???' Bahahahahah!
If I really had to put it in simple words: A guru is the truest friend you will ever have.
A guru does not necessarily have to be a teacher by profession. You can find a guru in a friend, in a parent, heck, one of the greatest gurus is nature herself! Gurus don't necessarily stay with you long, sometimes they are there for just a second. Sometimes a friend can be a guru, through sharing of each other's journeys, or through a shared life experience.
I must have done something right in a past life to have crossed paths with many great people in this lifetime. But the biggest blessing is to have met a true guru.
A guru is not a crutch, he is a bridge.
- Sadhguru -
Gratitude for the guru's grace & blessings.
Do you know what happens when you decide to stop worrying about what other people might think of you?
You get to dance. You get to sing. You get to laugh loudly, paint, write & create.
You get to be yourself.
& you know what? Some people won't like you. Some will laugh or mock or point out flaws.
But it just won't bother you all that much.
- Doe Zantamanta -
This word has been resounding in my brain for the past few weeks.
I kicked, screamed, & fought to be kept in my prison cell.
I held the door shut, although it was never closed.
If left alone, it would slowly open wide. Yep, it was one of those doors.
Yet here I am today.
I know what it is like to go through that period of denial & blind stubbornness. It was the most unpleasant thing I've had to go through. But it was also the most necessary, & the best.
Freedom is not a forgoing of responsibilities. On the contrary, it is the biggest responsibility you will ever carry throughout your life.
To be fully accountable to yourself for your actions & inactions. To say, 'yes, this is for me,' or 'no, this is not for me'. To not place the blame on others when things don't turn out right.
Freedom is doing what is best for you, regardless of whatever the hell others may think. Goddamn it I'm so damn tired of blind compassion. It isn't my goddamn job to analyze others' past traumas. I wasn't put here to help others through their shit, at the expense of my well-being. My life isn't to help others live theirs.
I'm here to live my life.
They said I was crazy. One said I was 'domesticated'.
The thing is, they didn't know the meaning of 'tame'.
You see, the wild ones aren't always easily recognizable. They are not always the all-up-in-your-face, crazy-bitch-break-your-windows kind. They are the ones who you will never be able to fully understand. They are the ones who will sometimes seem to give you the most problems. They will tell you when you are full of shit. & sometimes when you are too full of shit to see that you are full of shit, they won't even bother telling you you're full of shit. Because what would be the point?
You will try to undermine their talents & strengths. You will try to trample on their opportunities, critique their passions & hobbies; & confine them into a box.
You will withhold praise during times of success, & kick sand in their face when they hit rock bottom.
They will take all of these in stride, & may even give you the joy of having the upper hand for some time.
We want what we want. We cannot be restricted by the boundaries of what you think is right & wrong. We do not play by your rules. We cannot be predicted. We dance to the rhythm of our own heartbeats. We are the ones for whom the drums are played for.
We dive deep. We cannot comply to your conventional idea of 'beauty', as we see the unique, raging beauty in each & every one of us. We are not your superficial, shallow-minded humans who fight one another. We wear whatever makes us feel good. We do whatever makes us happy. We do not succumb to mindless trends, gossip & fads.
If you want to run with us, by all means, come.
But make sure you can keep up. Make sure you step your game up.
We cannot afford to be dragged down to anything less than a full life.
I've had it with people who cannot be happy for me, even on my best days. I've had it with listening to what others think about me, & what they assume about me. I've fucking had it with people who don't have jack shit in life, yet try to put my work down, work that I've been getting positive recognition for, at that!
& every time I think about all of these things, there's a voice in my head yelling at me, 'Stupid, Ee Lee, stupid!' I was a dumbass girl who was too naive, too trusting. I was an empath who felt & understood too much.
I was stupid for allowing myself to be mistreated. I was stupid for allowing others to determine the course of my life, for letting myself be swayed by the opinions of those who I thought were on my side. I'm tired of being taken advantage of for my kindness.
My stupidity, my unknowingly allowing myself to be vulnerable; has made me strong.
I'm living my life now; according to my rules. I'm doing the things I've always been good at, & more & more opportunities are opening up to me. I make a living doing what I'm passionate about, & from the money that I earn, I gather more experiences. I surround myself with people who support & empower me.
& during the times when I'm done being angry, I actually thank those who did me wrong. When I dance, I dance for them. When I sing, I sing for them. Thank you for being the toughest lesson I've ever had to learn, so that I could arrive to the ultimate truth: self-love.
I'm ready to be responsible for my freedom. Are you?
Original version of this post here:
It's been almost a month since I boarded that plane to India, & since then it's been a whirlwind of a journey! For the first week I stayed with friends in Delhi & Karnal, then headed to the mountains of Dharamshala to meet up with my beloved Teacher-jis & to attend the Dancing Soul meditation course in Osho Nisarga. Upon returning, there were Teacher Training courses to attend & finally today I relived the joy of not having to wake up to an alarm clock, bahahahahah!
I always say that my life is divided into two parts: before yoga & after yoga. When I attended my first 200-Hour Teacher Training with Deep in 2014, I was in a shitty relationship, could barely speak to strangers, even over the phone, & thought I would live & die working with animals because I was so not a people person! Heck, even though I loved music, I was embarrassed to dance, even alone in my own room!
Since then, my boy-cut crop has grown down to my waist, I've gained 10 kilos in the past year, have met beautiful people from various parts of the world, I make friends fairly easily & can speak in front of a group of people, more importantly I can sing & dance whenever I feel like it...life has never been better! It feels narcissistic, talking about myself, but I really believe that it is important for people to share their personal experiences, not only the good ones but also the supposedly 'not too good' ones. Especially the not too good ones. Because you never know who may be going through the same things you were/are. True, yoga is all about the self, but community helps tremendously too. Sure, I fought to be the person I am today, but at the same time I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the people who helped me up during some of my darkest days. More about this in my next blog post.
What can I say about my journey so far? The more I go into it, the more idiotic I feel. At the moment it is a constant battle between holding on & letting go. What really is the purpose of life? To achieve a self-created vision of oneself? The old me would never have imagined she could become the person she is today, so how do I know that life won't take another about turn in the next few years? In just this past year especially, so many things have changed. Time & again, life shows me that I am not in control of anything, not even myself! Just as I'm beginning on one path, life snatches me up & drops me down somewhere else! Layers & layers have been shed, sometimes forcefully torn away from me, but thankfully, what is left is always more beautiful.
Ambitions? Goals? What is there to do in life except to find out who I am? & by 'I', I'm not referring to the I who loves ice cream, the I who wants to change the world, the I who detests sour dough cookies; I mean the I who is beyond all that. Life is so short, so fleeting; why to create tension, why to aspire to achieve things which cannot be carried into the grave?
For years & years, even before my yogic journey began, the only constant I have found within is love. No, not even God! Because to me, love is God. To me, God is not someone sitting above the clouds. He is within. He is without. He is in between. Where there is love, there is God. So for now, all I can say is that I am living love. If the Universe could bring me this far, I'm sure it will bring me wherever it is I need to be in the days to come. All I have to do is just live my truth & share love.
I am grateful for this life. Every few weeks I get all soppy & teary eyed for seemingly no reason. The most weirdest-est time was when I was sitting alone on my friend's balcony in Delhi & saw a plane & two eagles flying in the same direction at the same speed & just burst into tears...LMAO..!
There's so much truth within this song. The irony of life, the trials & tribulations of spirituality, that seeking for truth...it can be a tough journey. But I wouldn't have it any other way. There is much more 'breaking' to be done, but since it has been proven time & again that what comes after is always much more blissful, I accept. Anything which leads me astray from You, let it burn into ashes; even my own bullshit ideas & beliefs. Let there be nothing left within but You.
Grateful for my biological parents who are crazy in their extremely differing yet similar ways, for passing down their Crazy genes to me, & for giving their unspoken blessings in my journey. For their spouses, who take such good care of my parents, so that I don't have to worry about their well-being, & I can travel freely.
Grateful for my Teacher-ji, Deep; for his guidance & direction, even when I was not aware of what he was doing, even when he seemed out of the picture, bugger was still somewhere there...oh damn, there is no escape, hahahahah..! This man played a big role in moulding me into the person I am today. Finally, this trip he has given me my Sannyas name. To me, those few moments were enough of a Sannyas celebration for me, worth more than any Sannyas initiation/celebration.
Grateful for my beloved cat, Karas...oh, meri jaan...some things can never be said; perhaps only you & I know the sacrifices you made for me.
For my best friends who I have not spoken much to this past month...love is the connecting factor to everything & everyone. Although with some of you, our paths are different, & we don't see each other much or even rarely speak, my love for you is as strong as ever. Hell, I think one or two of you probably don't even know you are my best friends, LMAO...yep I'm undercover like that, yo!
For new friendships forged...thank you for being you, & for sincerely sharing in this madness called life!
Grateful for the gift of yoga. Yoga is not about the shape of your body, it is about the shape of your life. It is about going deeper into yourself, so that you can then relate to others. It is about creating awareness within yourself, so that you can live each moment in totality. It is about celebrating this madness called life!
One can have a spiritual experience anywhere in the world, but somehow India always impacts me greatly. Let's see what happens during our next meeting! (By the way I did not cry upon landing & take off this trip, bahahahah!) I'm grateful for the freedom to explore her lands & mingle with her people.
I must have done something right in a past life to deserve this one.
Ee Lee is a yoga teacher based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is an animal lover & may just kidnap your beloved animal friends so keep them safe when she visits your home! She is passionate about philosophy & the arts, & when she is not hiding in her cave, can be found randomly baltering, inspecting unassuming everyday objects, or instigating shenanigans.