Blessed Scarcity

29 Dec 2021

Today I offered the last spoonful of the incense powder purchased at Boudha in 2017. This concoction of herbal wonder was unceremoniously scooped and dropped into a plastic bag for a few rupees.

The last spoonful of juniper incense bought from Boudha in 2017.

Having limited mobility & lacking confidence in my online shopping capabilities have strengthened my appreciation of resources. I learn to use every thing sparingly regardless of its price or how it comes to me. For me a bottle of soya sauce from the local supermarket has the same status as a bottle of truffle oil from a specialised store. Both are precious.

Boudha Stupa on the full moon day of Dec 2017. I took this picture without making any special effort and it turned out so beautiful. Each time I look at it I feel Buddha smiling at me.

Today’s incense from Nepal is the last of its lot that I personally bought.

Despite its age, it seems to have gained potency as its wafting fragrance triggers many pleasant thoughts & memories.

As I watched Fire transform the juniper into healing aromas through the dancing smoke, I sent wishes of goodwill to all sentient beings. Among which was just as we aspire to abundance, may we also be able to accept scarcity for its hidden blessings.

Incense from a little shop facing the Boudha Stupa. I gave some away and kept a couple of packets for my own use. Yesterday was the last spoonful from this lot bought in 2017.

Blessed Ganesh Chaturthi

10 Sep 2021

I just learnt that today is the start of *Ganesh Chaturthi.

My first eye to eye contact with the elephant headed deity was in Nepal in 2011.

Ganesh Shrine at Park Village Resort within the Shivapuri National Park, Budanilkantha, Nepal.

Now, 10 years later, the symbol of resourcefulness and wisdom continues to inspire me to take things as they come without fear or resentment so that I may see clearly and dance lightly through all obstacles.

And while wondering how I could mark the occasion without leaving home, a dancing Ganesh pendant from my brother given a year ago and a recent hand drawn sunflower from a student combined to fulfil my intention.

Dancing Ganesh pandent given by my brother last year sits on a sunflower mandala drawn by a young student this September.

Here’s wishing all friends, family & strangers the blessings of Wisdom & Resourcefulness to meet challenges with ease like my favourite Hindu deity.

Om Gam Ganapateya Namaha! 🙏

*Ganesh Chaturthi marks the anniversary of his arrival from Mount Kailash.

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.


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)

Portals to Calm

29 Apr 2021

May this film on the significance of rituals which I’m happy to be part of energise you and enhance your equanimity.

In my experience, rituals are series of deliberate steps undertaken to invoke an internal order through external actions.

They can be personal & non-sectarian such as making tea or lighting a candle in the privacy of our home. They can also be public & religious, involving the community in specific locations.

When performed with focus & intention, a simple act can become a ritual.

In the absence of full participation with our senses, a ritual becomes a routine.

Conversation with El on rituals at a temple celebration.

So central to all rituals I believe is the mindful enacting of gestures to invoke a sense of order & strength within to manage the turbulence without.

When a child has a chaotic day at school and coming home to the sight of a loving adult making tea and arranging biscuits on a plate for him for the thousandth time since he started kindergarten may have a calming effect on him. And maybe then he will have the courage to share his thoughts.

Unfortunately more and more of us are just too knackered to initiate any kind of ritual with our children. Some of us abdicate our role as ritual masters in our kids’ life to therapists, counsellors or even strangers.

The adult working world can be unforgiving& unpredictable. So having some place to be still or set the table even if it’s just to eat a simple meal of porridge, may provide a moment of peace to our battered being.

In short, rituals sustain us and lend us the motivation to give whatever we’re trying to accomplish another shot.

The pandemic has generated wave upon wave of unease & difficulties. Distrust among nations and between citizens and their governments prevail even with the availability of vaccines.

While pharmaceutical developments race to keep up with the virus, and authorities we count on are understandably none the wiser, we need to look within for that sense of balance.

And the cure that keeps us from the panic that causes harm to self and others, might just be invoked through the discovery of new healing gestures or the enacting of old restorative.

A handcrafted incense holder in the shape of a dragon used by a priest. Dragons are associated with water and change.

Turning 9

15 July 2020

A couple of days back First Tutee turned 9 years old. I’ve known him since he was 6 and a half.

From being scared of cats, First Tutee now calls Ollie the Cat his best friend. He cried over Kitty’s passing last year & told me he would like to keep her ashes in his home when he buys his own place one day.

From struggling over differentiating “b” from “d”, he now learns his weekly spelling and dictation with ease. He composes his own stories by watching clouds and turns William Blake’s “A Poison Tree,” which he has memorised into a rap.

He listens to “War Horse” being read and learns to identify BBC accent from his favourite youtuber’s American accent. He likes Albert Narracourt a lot for his bravery and loyalty to Joey, his horse, and sketches out scenes from the book after his weekly reading aloud on ZOOM tuition.

On their morning rides to school, he’ll remind his uncle to slow down for pigeons, mynahs and sparrows feeding on the pavement.

I’ve always held the number 9 in high regard. In old Chinese culture, 9 is the number associated with the Emperor and longevity of all things positive. 9 in my minnan dialect shares the same pronunciation for “dog” which stands for faithfulness & abundance.

So on the morning of his birthday, I donated $99 to Metta Cats and Dogs Sanctuary in First Tutee’s name. I wished for him a healthy and happy long life, full of kingly attributes while staying humble and sharing his abundance with all sentient beings.

A while later, the shelter updated their list of sponsors on facebook and believe it or not, First Tutee was sponsor number 9!

In the evening I realised First Tutee’s full name contains 9 letters, and in his religion, God has 99 names. 🙏♥️

Wearable Peace

9 June 2020

In our village home at Covent Garden along one of the Singapore canals, there was a fallen tree trunk by the doorway. Depending on who was using it, it was sometimes a bench and sometimes a table.

The tree trunk of nearly black wood was often my grandma’s work bench.

On it my grandma could often be seen crafting her much sought after anklets and necklaces made from embroidery threads of 5 colours.

These “Five Coloured Threads,” or “ngoh sek sua,” as they are called in our minnan dialect, were meant for babies and toddlers, especially those who cried for no apparent reason at night.

Judging by the visits of parents to our home, grandma’s handiworks must have some positive outcomes.

My grandma had suffered unexplained losses in her life. Yet she could provide this support to her community willingly & cheerfully, as she rolled the 5 threads representing the 5 elements into one wearable work of Peace to soothe a restless baby and to calm an anxious parent.

Years later when I wear rudraskha beads on my wrist and pass them over the head or back of animals as I pat them, my grandma’s hands were on me.

And who have known that my grandma’s simple blending of the elements to make peace would prepare me for my affinity with prayers flags 40 plus years later in Nepal?

Staying Put

8 June 2020

Oliver came to sit on my lap during morning prayers.

Half way through my mala beads, the sky darkened, the wind rose and the rain fell. It was bright & sunny just a while ago!

I resisted the urge to get up and rush about to shut the windows in my home.

“What if the wind sends in more dust?”

“What if the rain wets my study table?”

The what ifs were threatening to unseat me.

Meanwhile, Oliver, the Grandmaster of Sleep, continued to nestle more comfortably on my lap, paying no heed as the sky darkened further and the wind swooshed about, sending hangers in the balcony clattering.

After I decided to let them be, I realised maybe Rain and Wind had come to assist me to scatter my prayers further to reach more sentient beings! It was a precious moment in my practice.

With that thought in mind, I stay put and completed the morning dedication.

By the time the prayer ended, the rain had also stopped and the sun appeared again. It was all so brief!

Oliver did not protest when I put the mala beads over his neck. He simply went onto another cane chair and continued his morning nap. 😄

I thought of the occasions when non-action was my only option.

For example, holding an umbrella while walking is not possible for me. And when a light drizzle suddenly becomes a downpour in the midst of a traffic light crossing, I cannot run. But I’ve had strangers offering to share their umbrellas with me.

Then there are times I cannot make the crossing from the steps of a bus to the kerb. One time a youth with tattoos from his arm to his neck gave me his hand.

We’re often told to take initiatives, to be proactive, to solve problems, to eat lunch or be lunch, but sometimes staying put or not having any option, IS the way out.

So my wish is, if anyone is feeling trapped or lost, may he or she not panic and seek unhealthy distractions, but to try & stay put with the situation, because a solution could be just round the corner. 🙏

“Wherever you go, you’ll always be HOME.”

China Black (2015 – 27 May 2020)

China Black aka Gaspard (2015-27 May 2020)

“Would you like to hug him one last time?” the pet crematorium staff asked as I stood at the furnace.

China Black, the slipper-sized black kitten that I rescued from under the vending machine in Chinatown some 15 years ago had passed on in early dawn.

This little black paw has given me so much.

I took the white shrouded bundle from the crematorium staff & held it close to my heart, like I’ve done so each morning for the past years.

China Black loves perching on the shelves to meet me.

China Black loved cuddles. He began his day by hopping onto one of the shelves to make eye contact with me when I entered their room to feed and water them. Only after getting hugged would he leap out of my arms to join the rest for breakfast.

Of late he started sleeping more in his favourite corner on the floor, and eating & drinking soon became a chore.

Hospitalising a cat like China Black that had never left the security of his home since the day he came back from sterilisation was out of the question. He was as affectionate as he was nervous and he resented being caged or confined in any way.

China Black dozes as he prepares for the journey into Light.

So I tried to make his last days at home as comfortable as possible, and let him pick wherever he wanted to lie down.

A few hours before he passed on, the rain came, followed by thunder and lightning. I lit incense to give thanks for the cool breeze and deliverance from the suffocating humidity of the past few days.

Then I cleaned China Black in scented water with pomegranate leaves like I had been doing for the past few days.

Despite his weakened state, he purred loudly and his eyes glowed affectionately, as if he was trying to memorise my face.

As I massaged his limbs that used to be so nimble and quick, I told him not to be afraid of bodily deteriorations. We had to give up this old shell for something better.

Then I stroked his face, held his little paw that I had kissed so often and said, “You’ve given me so many things. You don’t have to struggle to hold onto this body anymore. Wherever you go, you’ll always be home. Go & rest now, Momma’s always here.”

The cat cage where China Black exited for the Light.Hakim and Emmanuel paused quietly and looked at China Black before I carried him out. I put a butter lamp in there to give thanks. For the rest of the day, these two cats just lounged about quietly near the cage.

After he had 3 sips of honey water I carried him back to his favourite corner on the floor. I had wished he would sleep in the cat cage where it was cosy and clean. But I respected his will. To shield his bony body from the cold ceramic floor, I put a cotton shirt on him.

Before I turned in for the night, I lit a butter lamp that would accompany China Black and all in the room.

China Black loves the Sun. He would frequently stand by the window and look out. I would sometimes carry him to the window to greet the Sun.

As I passed the butter lamp over China Black’s head and body to bless him, he looked up at me in full awareness. I felt him receiving the blessings. I did the same for Hakim & Emmaneul, his cat brothers. They seemed to understand what I was doing and didn’t try to hide or run from the fire, but looked at me intently and calmly.

The next morning I woke up and did my morning prayers before I checked on the cats, which was my second act of the day. And as I faced the rising Sun to give thanks for Life, I was surprised to find myself giving thanks for Death as well, for the first time.

When I looked into the cat room, China Black was lying inside the cat cage. As I stood wondering how he could possibly have the strength to walk and climb onto the raised cage, the words, “Angels were here,” popped into my head.

China Black had passed on as if he was asleep.

It lifted my heart to know that my little cat’s soul has left in the cool of the night, where the air was crisp and the sky was sparkling with stars.

This little black cat has not only given me 15 years’ worth of hugs and affection, but also trained me to see the divinity of Water & the sanctity of Fire for Life’s final crossing.

I’m no student of theology or devotee of any particular spiritual teachings, but I felt assisted when needed. In sharing this experience with China Black, I hope that all who deal with animals be given guidance and resources to honour the death of their animals as much as they have benefitted from their lives.

And for those who are struggling with the inevitable end of animals in their care, may they find the rituals most suited to them to help their animals and themselves to make this difficult but necessary crossing. 🙏🌈🐾

Sweet Grace who taught me acceptance with China Black in their younger days. Both were great climbers and I understood how they must felt to lose control of their limbs & other faculties. This is the time when they need our care most. It is a lot of work and sadness, but it has to be done.

A Single Bloom

10 Feb 2020

Ollie woke up this morning and was greeted by a most unexpected sight.

The little shrivelled red radish that showed the least promise has brought forth a tiny pink bloom.

He couldn’t believe his aging feline eyes and had to look at the little pot several

And yes, there is a REAL 4 petaled pink blossom smiling coyly back at him!

“Thank you for not tossing me away when my leaves were barely alive,” Red Radish 3 seemed to say.

The tail of a single-tooth cat and his 4 petaled flower.

Ollie was glad that he had given this late bloomer of a radish her own pot and asked her to take her time to grow.

He had been watering her each day and helping her to catch the sun’s rays.

There was no pressure on her to achieve the same height and blossom like the rest in order to receive his love and care.

Ollie is just grateful that she can feel the sun and enjoy the water.

As she regularly faces the Goddess of Compassion, Ollie decides to name Red Radish 3, “Avaloki.” ♥️

A single bloom for & from Avaloki, the Compassionate One.