Don’t Wait

22 July 2021

Don’t wait till you’re dressed to take that picture.
Always be dressed so that you’re ever ready to have your picture taken.

Orchid Gardens, Singapore. June 2021.

Don’t wait till your house is bigger to welcome guests.
Keep your house simple so it’s eveready to receive people.

El & Ron visited the birthplace of my ancestors on Kinmen Island with me in September 2019. We stayed at a restored old house that had been through bombing and all kinds of hardship.
3 months after this picture was taken, the Covid 19 pandemic would trigger world wide travelling restrictions.

Don’t wait till your kids are grown to be obligation free.
Feel free, so that your kids and you can grow together freely.

Don’t wait till you’re successful to be happy.
Feel happy for others when they succeed, so that you’re already successful.

One of my first pictures with El. It was his first trip to Nepal and many to come. A year after this picture was taken, an earthquake struck Nepal, causing us to wonder if we would ever be able to visit again. (Park Village, Budanilkhanta, Nepal 2014)

Don’t wait till an award is conferred on you to be valued.
Feel valued so that every thing that you touch becomes an award.

Over the years, I’ve gone greyer and walking requires more effort. But my friendship with El has also grown stronger.

Wishing all my friends the ready power from within to sail through all things.

Soaking up the sun in the ancient city of Patan, Nepal.

🙏

Calling My Guru


21 July 2021

Film poster celebrating full moon of the lunar new year in my ancestral home of Kinmen Island where my Chinese calligraphy teacher and his wife came from

Two days ago on the eve of Hari Raya Haji, I managed to locate the contact number of my chinese calligraphy teacher and expressed my gratitude for his teaching some 17 years ago.

With my Chinese calligraphy teacher, Mr Khoo Seow Hwa, on Racial Harmony Day where he was guest speaker to students of Nanyang Girls’ High School. (2003)

Mr Khoo speaks Hokkien (Minan dialect) in the same way my grandma did. When I first heard him pronounce the name of my ancestral city during a lesson at the Singapore Buddhist Culture Centre at Upper Dickson Road, I felt a keen sense of familiarity with him.

The author of many books and teacher of local & foreign dignitaries treated me with respect despite my lack of Chinese cultural & literary knowledge.

I found this picture of my teacher online recently.

My inability to master brush strokes and lack of commitment to practice did not deter him from checking my homework. He pointed out that I was drawing lines and not writing. But I did not feel slighted because Mr Khoo spoke truthfully & kindly.

His other students were way ahead. They wrote out line upon line of ancient poems from memory as their paper unrolled and sometimes drapped over the edge of their tables. They made room for him respectfully as he weaved among them to inspect their work. His comments were received with reverence. 😊

Even though I couldn’t really follow the intellectual exchanges between him and his more mature & advanced students who had been with him for a long time, Mr Khoo often explained short chinese sayings to me so that I would feel included. His students took after him in his graciousness and were always welcoming towards me.

One unforgettable ancient saying that he taught me was this: the elegance of a room does not depend on size, just as the fragrance of flowers does not depend on numbers. In Chinese it reads “室雅何须大,花香不在多”. How compact! ❤️

When I apologised for my lack of progress in my writing, I remember Mr Khoo saying something like, “这是我们华人的字,你再写不好,也要写下去.” (Transl: This is our Chinese writing. Even if you’re not good at it, you must carry on.)

How refreshing it is to know that there are other more intangible reasons for doing something other than being good at it! Because of Mr Khoo’s approach to learning, I’ve become mindful of using marks as the only measurement of a student’s suitability & aptitude to continue with a subject.

“Guru” in Sanskrit means “Dispeller of Darkness,” and “Bringer of Light.” In Hindu and Tibetan practices, gurus are essential to one’s path to self cultivation & liberation.

Mr Khoo taught me not because I showed any promise in calligraphy nor was I a deserving student. In the ways he generously shares his knowledge and patiently deals with my ignorance, he is in every sense of the word, my guru.

I wish my teacher and his wife peace & health as they lovingly support each other through the years and I hope to be able to pay them a visit one day.

Befriending Fire


13 July 2021

The rain started last night and continues to this morning. I lit a light to thank Rain that cleanses, hydrates and heals. Then I thought of the animal shelters that flood during downpours. My mind went to the street animals having to brave the torrents on their own.

So I asked Fire to give them warmth and keep them dry.

Although I tended to incense and candles in the taoist temple of my childhood where my grandfather was caretaker, my friendship with Fire as an adult only began when I lit my first tea light in the Notre Dame Catheral in France.

My first light offering as an adult took place in the Notre Dame Cathedral in France.

After that, I lit my first tea light in Singapore at the grotto of the Church of St Peter & St Paul at Queen Street to support a friend who had to put down his dog, Socks.

Then I found out I could also meet Fire below the image of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus at the Church of St Mary’s of the Angels.

Fire guided me to the Icon at St Mary’s of the Angels. I have been visiting this space on and off since 2006.

In my 40s, visits to Patan and Boudha in Nepal brought me closer to Fire. Aging has somehow given me a porosity that allows me to soak up the illuminating presence of Fire at the prayer rituals I withessed there.

Butter lamp lighting at Boudha Stupa on full moon 3 Dec 2018. Light offering is the highlight of all our trips to Nepal.

And so certain am I of Fire’s loyalty that one of the first thoughts that comes to mind whenever loss or hardship befalls me or my friends is to raise a lamp to shine a path out of fear and confusion.

After all, my favourite catholic saint, Francis of Assisi addresses Fire as Brother Fire in “The Canticle of the Sun.”

So on a cold and wet day such as today, may we invoke the Fire within to keep ourselves and others warm and dry.

An unforgettable Full moon with friends and Fire on Nagarkot Hills, Nepal. (Dec 2017)

We’re More Than Our Flaws

6 July 2021

One day 20 years ago I was on the platform of Bishan MRT Station looking out for the train.

A young woman brushed past me. She had the blackest black hair cascading from her head to below her shoulders in rich glorious waves that danced and rippled.

Picturea credit: “Hawk Whispers His Message of Awareness,” 1993 by Patricia Wyatt.

“Wow! What amazing hair you have!” The words had flown out of my mouth even before I knew I was saying them.

“Thank you! No one has told me this before!” said Girl with Raven Hair.

“But I’m overweight,” she added, pointing at her stout form as if I should take back the compliment.

She was indeed on the chubby side, but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed about her. She beamed when I told her that her hair, was the showpiece, and not her hips.

Girl with Raven Hair had been thinking of wearing black clothes to look trimmer although pastels were her favourite colours.

I asked her to rethink her new colour choice. Black clothing can also make a person look heavier than she really is because of its opacity.

She then realised focussing on hiding her curves had caused her to lose sight of the obsidian tresses that had gathered about her like a comforting cloak of lush velvet.

Whether it’s a lisp, or a limp, or not being trim enough, imperfections are not the sum of us. Investing our energy to hide them ironically amplifies their hold on our psyche and keep us from seeing fully.

First 2-person Dine-in with First Sibling

28 June 2021

Last week Singapore relaxed some of its hightened alert rules. Dine-in at cafes and restuarants could resume, but capped at 2 persons.

It was just in time to celebrate my first younger brother’s birthday.

First Sibling and I celebrating his birthday at the mall last week (25 June 2021)

The original plan was to have a meal in the Bugis-Waterloo Street area followed by a bit of gallivanting to admire the beautifully carved figurines in shops selling religious goods.

But these days with seats in public spaces where I can sit to rest cordoned off, First Sibling thought it would be easier on me that we went to a mall.

Many outings for me require visualisations and forward planning akin to making overseas trips.😂

After a birthday meal of noodles and over coffee, First Sibling remarked that we musn’t assume anyone could reach 60.

This morning I looked at the only picture of my First Sibling with our Aunt when he was little and the one we took at the mall last week.

My first sibling and childhood friend with our Aunt in our village at Covent Gardens Rd (now Zion Rd) in the 60s.

50 plus years have passed between 2 pictures just like that.

And I’m glad I could dedicate the first 2-person dine-in provision to celebrate the birthday of my first sibling and first childhood friend.

Heart Mandala for Full Moon


24 June 2021

Rose quartz heart for unconditional love. Clear quartz heart for clarity & courage.

This morning around 4am, the Moon came flooding through the windows. Emmanuel the cat had a glorious moon bath, his grey fur and white paws taking on a luminous glow.

8 years ago, on an evening before this, we were standing on the roof top of Tibet Guest House in Nepal greeting the full moon.

The full moon in Kathmandu on 23 June 2013 that started my mandala dedications to the Moon.

That was the first full supermoon that got me started on dedicating mandalas to the moon.

May our hearts be filled with the fullness of the Moon, to keep caring even if there isn’t a cure.

May our hearts take on the luminosity of the Moon, to see clearly and act courageously, for our benefit and the benefit of all sentient beings.

Divina, the elderly shelter cat has a rose quartz heart to keep her company.

The Ultimate Influencer

21 June 2021

Vespa was my dad’s favourite bike till he couldn’t ride.

A father’s influence is impossible to ignore even when he’s absent. If he’s a good father, he’s missed. If he’s a bad father, his kids are welded to him by hate.

I’ve met boys with limited access to their father pining over their dads & fantasing about fatherly attributes that may or may not exist.These boys will continue to look for their father in other people for a long time.

My dad in his youth donning a uniform from an unknown source. He was 8 month old when his father died. Having no father to role model after, he still did his best for us.

Girls whose fathers have let them down may appear unscathed on the surface, but scars stay.

While moms are rightly glorified for giving us life, I think fathers are magical because their influence or even the lack of it affects the meaning of our life.

Temple visit with my dad on chinese new year. We hardly spoke but my collection of pics of him attests to his importance in my life.

Throughout his life, my father hardly spoke to me. But his interests in books, batik, non-Chinese foods, Balinese arts and Nature continue to live through me. His sacrifices and shortcomings have become important lessons for my brothers and I as we move towards the age of his demise.

My dad as doting grandpa. Here his grandson is pointing a gun at me and my dad’s smiling!

My Fathers’ Day wish is that may all fathers claim their rightful place of power, and make good use of their influence for their children’s benefit and for the benefit of others. 🙏

The Goddess at Orchid Gardens


16-6-2021

“You walk very well,” the lady on the motorised scooter addressed me heartily when I greeted her.

We were on our way out of the orchid gardens when we met. From a distance she looked like a pink blob.

But upclose, she was fully coordinated spotting a face mask and comfortable cotton frock of bandung pink while her thick silvery hair was held in a neat bun by a pair of pink tiger lilies clasp. A circular brooch of antique gold resembling a Flower of Life caught the morning sun and sparkled attractively atop her shoulder.

I felt like hugging her. But in the current climate I wasn’t sure how my gesture would be perceived.

“Thank you! You look amazing!” I said to her, hoping she could pick up the sincerity in my voice.

Earlier on in the pavilion, a soft breeze had risen as I offered the bottled coconut juice which was given to me to the Sky and Earth first before I took my sip. (I saw this practice in a mongolian documentary)

As the pink vision receded steadily from my view under the wide open sky, I had the feeling that I did not just compliment a handicapped lady, but a goddess on her chariot making the rounds in her gardens.
❤️😊

Mandala of Rose Quartz & Candy Drops for New Moon

10 June 2021

May the new moon’s appearance evoke early memories of love and sweetness in all human and animal beings.

The fox represents all beings that are vilified because of our lack of wisdom & compassion. She is protected by a ring of rose quartz hearts that heals all traumas and candies of my childhood bought for by my maternal grandma at every chance she had despite having little money.

May Love neutralise past traumas that are unconsciously carried forth to present life.

May every little drop of sweetness ever experienced be amplified today to heal all hurts and embrace all fears.

Territorial Instincts


9 June 2021

Despite being only the size of a cushion, and weighing less than 6kg, Emmanuel growls menacingly when Ollie tries to cosy up on the couch he’s on.

Emmanuel, the cushion sized cat with a loud voice and a ready bite.
Different locations, same bickering over who occupies where.

In return, Oliver sneaks up at night on Emmanuel ensconced on the cane chair, and scares the wits out of him.

My counselling falls on deaf ears.

Both cats are loved, have free run of my home and access to food and clean water 24/7.

Once in a while they grudgingly share space.

Furthermore they are also somewhat related, having been born on the grounds of a girls’ school I was teaching in some 14 years ago.

Yet they bicker constantly about who occupies where as much as they can only bodily be in one location at a time.

Perhaps this fear of losing out & needing to own more than what one needs is hardwired into the survival instincts of all living beings.

Oliver posing with a literary magazine from Kinmen Island, a political pawn used by warring parties since the Ming Dynasty. My grandmother was born there in 1914.

Unlike cats, we humans have the advantage of analysis, and perhaps even tame some of our natural inclinations for power and control, and be free from fear and possessiveness to some degree.