Facing Light

29 Sep 2019

Light in Sydney on June 2018.

“I want to draw the devil!” the lanky boy replied as he studied my reaction. I had asked him if he would like to do art since he wasn’t in a mood to do English work.

He had been having one altercation after another since morning.

During English class a casual request from his fellow classmate to fill up his drinking bottle had easily spiralled downwards into a shouting match of vulgarities.

It’s difficult to imagine this doe-eyed individual capable of setting fire to public property. But then again there’s also an African saying that goes, “An unloved child will set fire to the whole village to feel its warmth.”

“Why don’t we give the devil a rest today and do some mandala colouring for a change?” I asked him calmly.

His defiance dropped a little. Perhaps he was puzzled by my suggestion.

My late Kitty with Mandala Book on Christmas 2017.

I quickly produced Susanne Fincher’s book of mandala templates and a box of Derwent colouring pencils.

The sullen boy was mildly intrigued by the display of colours before him. But the residual anger from the storm that had broken held him back.

“Yes, you should try the mandala colouring! It took me damn long but it’s nice,” one of he boys who had an earlier confrontation with him quipped. This boy had completed two mandalas to date and was very proud of his ability to start & finish well.

Mandalas coloured at Park Village Hotel, Nepal in 2014.

The boy moved closer to my desk to have a better look at the mandalas completed by other students.

“Wow! This is nice! Who did this?” Hatred gave way to fascination as he ran his fingers over the beautiful circles.

It took him a while to choose his mandala template. When he finally did, he retreated to the corner of our study room and faced the wall to get started.

I desperately wanted him to face the large window to receive the healing light of the morning sun. His battered soul needed it.

But I knew that his brittle nerves would not tolerate being told where to sit. It was good as it was that he agreed not to draw the devil but colour a mandala instead.

So I watched him quietly from my desk.

Suddenly he stopped colouring and asked, “Miss Ong, how come these two colours on my mandala look the same even though I’m using different colour pencils?”

He was referring to chrome yellow and lemon yellow. He had used them side by side in his mandala.

One night Ollie just got very fascinated by the windhorse flags.

I looked at what he had put on his mandala and said, “Your first colour is blue representing water. And your second colour is green representing earth. And you have used two kinds of yellow to represent the Sun. The Sun must be very important to you!” I said.

He beamed at my interpretation and like a primary school child, asked me to repeat every thing I just said.

The way he smiled and breathed as I repeated what his colours might mean looked like he was listening to some beautiful secret language that his soul understood.

I then went on to explain that the reason why he couldn’t tell the 2 yellows apart was because where he sat didn’t allow enough light to see clearly. Had he faced the window where the Sun was coming from he would have been able to differentiate the colours easily.

Without a word, he gathered all his materials and turned his chair towards the Sun.

And for the rest of the lesson there was peace as the boy concentrated on making his mandala beautiful. Whenever he looked up, there was the Sun smiling back at him.

So I wish for myself and all sentient beings the grace to look towards light for healing when disappointments in life make darkness feel good and inviting.

Prayer Flags at Boudha Stupa on the full moon of Dec 2017.

Calling on Fire When All Else Fails

10 Feb 2019

An elderly community cat hadn’t been sighted for 2 days. Feeders searched and called for him to no avail.

I followed the exchanges on the chat group and picked up the mounting unease of one of the veteran feeders who is usually very composed.

Butter lamp dedicated to all animal beings on the 4th Day of the Lunar New Year. On the 5th Day, the missing cat was found and given help.

On Friday evening at the temple I dedicated a light to all animal beings. (It’s the Lunar New Year season and Street Dog Care’s 10th Anniversary after all.)

On Sat morning the lost cat was found.

He was injured. Someone heard a weak meow coming from the drain, another person carried him out and a whole family took him to the vet.

Maybe the timing of the butter lamp dedication and the cat finding was just a fortunate coincidence.

But light, which is the universal symbol for divine presence, is a source of comfort and encouragement to the fearful and the anxious, regardless of beliefs. It is also an expression of gratitude for divine companionship when the material world fails us.

And now I get it when my grandma had such a high regard for all rituals involving Fire. We thought she was nuts when she told us the Fire is listening.

So even as we read news of bush fires in Australia and of charger exploding in a home elsewhere, may we not be discouraged, but continue to develop a healthy relationship with Fire.

And may all beings feeling lost or in distress turn to the Light and be comforted and healed. 🙏