Consecrating a TV Set

7 Sept 2020

7 days ago, a new TV set arrived to replace the one that had been broken since 2017.

It had taken me nearly 3 years to get a new a TV set. The hesitation was due to a character flaw that I noticed about myself.

About 3 years ago, when the old TV was still working, I found myself being overly critical of whatever I watched. I judged the actors for their looks and acting skills, the journalists for their pronunciations and so on. One day a voice in my head told me to stop committing speech sins.

So when the 14-year-old Toshiba TV broke down in 2017, I made a vow not to get a replacement till I could control my mouth.

Without a TV, I got used to watching less and listening more on my iphone. I would have mantras playing all morning. I would watch talks and interviews instead of shows etc.

In fact I got so used to not watching TV that I even toyed with the idea of putting a tanka or a spiritual painting in the space that was customised for a wall mounted TV. But the renovation cost of repurposing that space would cost more.

7 days ago when the technician asked me to test the new LG TV he had set up & programmed for me, a voice in my head said,”Play Tara mantra.” So I did just that.

So now I not only have a new TV but changing digital tankas and sacred arts to look at each time I tune to listen to mantras.

Flowers from Children Happy Teachers’ Day!

4 Sept 2020

Flowers not only beautify our life, but remind us to always bloom our best.

The first bouquet in my adult life was from a bunch of kids who accepted me as their teacher when I was just 23. What did I know about learning then?

Today, a bouquet of sunflowers from one of the students in the group that gave me my first bouquet arrived. ♥️🙏

A while later, a sunflower in the form of a dessert also came.

And my 76 year old mom got to enjoy the sunflower konyaku jelly with me.

I’ve like sunflowers since I was a young woman. And I’m very honoured that in my greying years, the kids have sent them to remind me to keep shining.

So here’s wishing all my friends, all the light and sweetness of life as embodied in these gifts from lovely adults who were once kids. ♥️🙏

Moving From Reluctance to Resourceful

1 Sept 2020

First Tutee visualises his Reading Mentor role with his future reading mentee, whom he has named Irfan.

“Ms Ong, my teacher asked me to be Reading Mentor to next year’s Primary Ones,” First Tutee announced, his talcum powdered face beaming on my computer screen.

“Wow! That’s a big responsibility for 2021!” I exclaimed, and asked him to give his future reading mentee a name. After some thought, he came up with the name “Irfan.”

“How would Irfan know that you’re fit to be his Reading Mentor? Do you even own books?” I asked.

First Tutee quickly got up from his chair and dug out all his books from the bookshelf behind him.

First Tutee at 9 years old now. “Navaan” is one of his favourite books.

He brought “Navaan,” to the screen and waved it triumphantly at me.

First Tutee and “Navaan,” on his first day of school in primary one. (2018)

“Navaan,” was the first book he brought on his first day to school when he started primary one in 2018.

“So you own books. But can you read?” I challenged him.

Without hesitation, he turned to the first page of “Navaan” and read aloud confidently from cover to cover. He did not skip words. He read the baby elephant, Navaan’s speeches with great animation. He was unstoppable.

“But what will you do if Irfan still refuses to read and kicks up a fuss?” I continued.

“I’ll say to him, ‘Calm down now, Irfan. We’re going to read this!’” First Tutee responded firmly, mimicking the way he was spoken to when he was once a reluctant reader.

I feel that Ganesha, the Giver of Wisdom has been accompanying First Tutee all along.

For some kids, reading happens easily, but for many, progress may be slow.

The boy who used to struggle with differentiating “him” from “his” when he was 7, has moved passed his reading challenges to take on multisyllabic words at 9. Come 2021, he’ll be guiding someone to read just as he was guided before.

First Tutee reads “Namaste” and wears a tshirt with Nepali alphabet. So glad I got these last year in Kathmandu before world wide travelling restrictions came in. Hope I get to see Nepal soon. ♥️

As we enter the month of September and into the last quarter of 2020, may I wish all adults the blessing to use their authority with kindness, and hold space for children to evolve from reluctant readers to resourceful readers.

And may I wish all struggling young readers the courage to continue trying, no matter what the result slip says. ♥️

Changing Script

27 Aug 2020

Our mom turned 77 last week. I organised a dinner at a restaurant that served dishes of our dialect group.

She and I were the first to make it to the restaurant. While tea was being served, my mom asked if my brothers were coming. I told her yes and referred her to the dishes on the menu to pick her favourites.

Both my brothers were coming from work. Evening traffic could be an issue. When my mom asked me again to check if my brothers were on their way, I decided not to get annoyed with her or give her a chance to rant about them.

Instead I calmly asked her why she was so fixated on the ones who hadn’t arrived, when the one who remembered her birthday, booked the dinner, and got everyone to turn up for it was sitting right in front of her.

I’ve learnt not to take on the emotions of others, even if they’re valid or belong to my mother.

My brothers are now in their 40s and 50s. This is a childhood picture I cherish.

About 15 minutes later, my brothers appeared. I was very happy to see them. Our sibling bond has somehow survived years of negative narratives started by parental worries and disappointments, and perpetuated by constant retelling at the slightest provocation.

My mom performing a ritual bath on Ganesha, the Giver of Wisdom and the Breaker of Obstacles. We take on the attributes of whom we serve and pay attention to.

But that evening at our mother’s birthday celebration we were happily sharing a meal and chatting about more important, but non- emotional topics such as keeping our jobs and our masks on. Of course we also traded in superficial knowledge of more profound topics such as statesmanship and power play.

My mother looked very pleased with the red packets we gave her to wish her good health. She ate heartily all the dishes that would take her too much effort & time to cook at home.

Perhaps all gatherings are invitations to rewrite our scripts, and free us from the habitual hold of stunted stories that keep us from moving on and growing up.

Even as the passing years deplete us of our physical faculties, the power to select which narratives we wish to perpetuate can never be lost.

Will our stories be full of how others have wronged us and how we’ve also let others down? Or will our stories also celebrate every attempt to do our best in spite of everything?

Here’s wishing all good health, sound mind and generous heart to keep improving on our life’s script and live in joy regardless of the situation.

My mom and her sister on a kelong trip in 2019.

Different Boats, Same Journey

19 Aug 2020 (New Moon)

These days the safe entry requirements make me think twice about going anywhere.

Two days back I was running through my mind the logistics of getting flower offerings to celebrate this new moon, and Ganesha Charthurti this Saturday. Would the florists be operating? Would the familiar short cuts I know be blocked?

I was on the verge of saying to Ganesha, “Sorry, there’ll be no flowers for your charthurti celebration this year because going to the florists is getting a bit complicated for me,” when a Muslim friend offered to drop me off at the florists in Little India.

He would settle his errands at Mustaffa Centre and come back to pick me up and send me home when I was done with my jasmine garlands and marigold shopping.

Some time back when mosques were closed because of circuit breaker measures, I was very honoured that he and his nephew conducted their prayers in my home. He also blessed my home and thanked me for facilitating their spiritual obligations.

As we seek to connect with the Divine in our different ways according to our race, culture, history and geography, may we be secure enough in our own beliefs & practices to facilitate the spiritual journeys of others.

Happy New Moon to All Sentient Beings!

May every gesture to harmonise and facilitate for the benefit of all be blessed.

Salem. Namaste. Tashi Delek. 🙏😊

What We Carry

17 August 2020

On my 40th birthday celebration in 2004.

I used to carry pretty handbags. Now I carry dogs and cats, and some kibbles.

These days with the knowledge that anyone can carry virus, we’re also obliged to carry hand sanitizers and face masks whether we like to or not.

In fashion magazines there’s a frequent quote that goes, “Women can never have enough handbags, or shoes,” to justify constant buying and spending.

At 47 in the Winter of 2011 in Kathmandu.

But perhaps this insatiable appetite for bags and shoes is a hidden quest to find out what we really want to carry, and where we would like to be headed during this lifetime.

I recall Ms Jane Goodall having only a small trolley bag and a backpack to hold everything she needs on her cross continental lecture trips to speak for primates. And yet at every event, she manages to look so polished and new. 😊

The Most Important Bag for me now carries relief supplies for street and community animals.

Bit by bit when I learn to carry what really matters, the old baggage of self doubt and “what would people think of me,” steadily dissolves.

I still like beautiful things, as people born under the zodiac sign of the Hare are known for. My heart still burst with affection at the primary school girls holding their glittery magic pony bags.

But the compulsion to own pretty things is losing its grip on me as my understanding of what I’m meant to carry in this lifetime gains clarity.

In my 50s at home in Singapore. (Aug 2020)

My Psalm 23 Moment

10 Aug 2020

“Remember, no matter what you see, the whole thing is just up to my knee!” the kindly museum guide assured me. I was trembling a bit in my walk on the glass surface of installation art piece by Mark Justiniani.

“Stardust: Soaring Through the Sky’s Embrace,” takes the form of a bridge lined with mirrors, creating the illusion of endless depth.

Half way through the short bridge, I felt a bit sick as I peered down at the abysmal blackness beneath my feet.

But the museum guide’s voice brought me back to the reality that the nauseating depth I was fixating on was in fact only knee deep!

How often have I allowed my flawed vision to dictate what I should think or feel? How do I differentiate reality from the utterances & projections of the ego?

When I finally cleared the “depth” open-eyed without falling down, I felt immensely grateful to the museum staff, my friends for walking beside me and my cane.

And one of the verses in Psalm 23 which I learnt in my teens came to me: “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.“

May we be guided by Benevolence as we scale the steps of Life.