New Moon Mandala of Mango & Jade on World Turtle Day

23 May 2020

Today is new moon and also World Turtle Day. A critically endangered hawksbill turtle was sighted coming onto Singapore shore to lay her eggs.

Hawksbill Turtle laying eggs at East Coast Park on 23 May (World Turtle Day) Pic courtesy of NParks.

She spent about 2 hours on the East Coast Park beach before covering her contributions with sand and swimming out to sea.

This evening I received gifts of fruits, bread, noodles & soup.

Around this time in 2011, Ron and I took our first trip to Nepal.

It was the mango season then.

It is not something to be taken for granted that the same friend who lugged mangoes back to our hotel that day sent me mangoes this evening 9 years later.

Greeting Ganesha at Harati Hotel in the morning before we set out and in the evening when we returned.

I remember vividly Ron & I eating mangoes by the dusty window of Hotel Harati in Thamel in silent gratitude as cars honked madly on the street below.

A rushed life makes it hard for us to find grounding. And because of our inability to ground, we collect links and connections, hoping they can somehow protect us even as we get entangled by our attempts. (Street scene in Thamel, Nepal)

This stay home imposition has provided me the grounding I need to recall & process lots of stuff.

May the new moon open our eyes to see our own buried past clearly, so that we can gather compassion & wisdom to move forward. And as the scales fall off our eyes in the new moon light, may we develop the courage to look at our own movies, instead of just the ones on Netflix.

May the new moon also refresh our ears even as our mouths are masked shut, so that we can listen better to ourselves and to others, before we speak.

Journey to Jasmines

22 May 2020

Tomorrow is new moon observation.

With the nation wide restrictions on human movements and activities, I wasn’t sure if flowers would still be available at the supermarket near my home.

Medical safety aside, getting dressed and donning a mask to make that walk in our humid weather did threaten my flower offering practice.

But I finally made the flower trip while being fully aware that it might turn out to be a “wasted” one.

Outside the supermarket, the styrofoam box that was used to contain the jasmines was empty except for the crushed ice that was meant to keep the flowers fresh.

The bouquets on sale were too large for the vases at home and it looked like I was going home “empty handed.”

Oh well…at least I got to buy new sponges for the sink and some bread, dried fruits and nuts, I thought to myself as I reluctantly accepted the reality of my unproductive trip.

As I made my way home, I turned to take one last look at the bouquets, hoping I could perhaps find a smaller one.

It was then I spotted a burly man showing great interest in the empty styrofoam box, much like what I did earlier on.

Burly Man wore dark clothes and had industrial shoes on. He looked like one of those container truck drivers, not someone you would associate with flowers, especially jasmines.

He gesticulated at the cashier with great familiarity to ask where the jasmines were. The latter made a quick dash to someone inside the supermarket.

Before long, a young male staff appeared, cradling a large bag of packed with little packets of jasmines & showed them to Burly Man. Both men smiled widely at the treasured florals & exchanged pleasantries.

By then, Burly Man knew I was also looking to buy jasmines and garlands, if they were available.

As the packets of jasmines rained down into the styrofoam box, Burly Man helped me sort out the garlands which were in limited supply from the unstrung ones, while picking a few packets for himself.

I paid for the garlands for Ganesha, for Avaloki and for St Francis, and thanked Burly Man for getting the jasmines out of cold storage for me.

Burly Man will never know he had played such an important role in a stranger life’s yesterday.

His timely appearance assured me that making “inconvenient journeys” without the certainty of their outcomes, except that they be a gesture of commitment, must be done even when things don’t pan out the way I hope or want.

Vesak Day Full Moon Mandala Dedication

7 May 2020

A mandala of gifts from Nature to thank the ever faith-full moon for showing up whether we bother to look at her or not.

May her light inspire us to stay faithful to our commitments, especially when inconvenient times strike.

May employers keep their workers, and may animal keepers hold onto their animals, for the benefit of all creation.

Bench of Blessings

16 April 2020 (Day 10 of Circuit Breaker)

One afternoon, before 2012, I was sitting by the window of my old flat just looking at the rain trees outside and the badminton court below. It was the June break so I had lots of time to be still.

Then I spotted a man with a backpack making his way to the cast iron bench at the periphery of the badminton court.

He had a dark complexion and was dressed like one of those hundreds of young foreign workers I saw at Mustaffa Centre.

It was a work day so it was unusual to see a worker sitting by himself.

My flat was on the 7th floor. By the time I really noticed the man, he had already sat down. And so I could see only the top of his head,his shoulder and his backpack.

Perhaps something about the way he sat told me he was troubled. And suddenly almost without realising it, I found myself addressing the top of his head with, “Whatever is bothering you, may you be well.”

I wasn’t feeling particularly kind when I made that prayer, if it could be considered a prayer at all. In fact it came out of my mouth almost mechanically.

And as if he had heard me, the man got up.

It was then I saw that one of his hands was newly bandaged.

He must have gotten injured and was taking a rest on the bench after returning from the clinic.

And as for me, I’m glad that I had been spared the shame of making unfair remarks of a man looking “so free,” when the opposite was more like it.

That episode always pops up in my mind during social gatherings when harmless chats can often spiral downwards into trading unkind remarks on others whose lives we know nothing of, in our attempts to sound “interesting.”

And over the years I have avoided meet ups that I feel can make me judgemental or worse still, condone irresponsible speech in my efforts to fit in.

Hand on Heart

10 May 2020

“Ms Ong, is that Mother Mary?” a young voice rang out during zoom tuition.

The kids on zoom saw the painting of the Madonna behind me as I adjusted my notebook.

“Yes, she’s the Perfect Mother. She knows when to hold on and when to let go,” I explained.

When I assured the kids that Mother is always watching our zoom meetings, the girls smiled and one of the boys started singing, “Let it Be.”

To soothe a fearful child or animal, we often hold them close to our chest. And babies and animals often place their hands or paws on the heart area of those who are cuddling them.

It’s an honour to have one’s heart physically touched like this, and perhaps even healed.

So hand on heart, on this Mothers’ Day, may I wish that all male & female hearts be touched and healed of all imbalances, for our own benefit, and for the benefit of all sentient beings. 🙏🌈🐾

OK is Very Good

May 2020

These days temperature taking is the norm. And a sticker that says, “I’m OK” is given if one’s temperature is normal.

Standing in the temperature taking queue, I’ve never been more sensitive to these two hitherto nondescript words, “I’m OK.”

“I’m OK,” gives me permission to go into supermarkets, post offices, banks and other enclosed public spaces.

“I’m OK,” tells me that breathing is a gift that can be forfeited any time.

And I’ve also become very conscious of the fact that temperature taking requires someone to point directly at my forehead with an instrument, even though there’s no physical contact .

The forehead is home to the third eye and the pineal gland, among other important features.

Perhaps this mode of contactless temperature taking is an invitation to us to connect with dimensions beyond human sensing.

So today for my OM writing practice to purify my pride & ignorance, I’ve included an “I’m OK” sticker from this morning’s grocery trip as a gesture of gratitude.

Here’s giving thanks to every “I’m OK,” in my life, and may all my friends and all sentient beings be very OK today and the days to come. 🙏🌈🐾