Of all the manifestations or portrayals of the Buddha, I feel drawn to the one with curls on his head.
Somehow he felt Nepali to me. In 2011, before my first trip to Nepal I made a trip to the Tkechen Choling temple in Beatty Lane. I told him that I was going to visit his country & asked for his blessings on the medicines & veterinary supplies that we were bringing for the street dogs.
I’m old school in the sense that if I’m visiting a country for the first time, especially one with known spiritual traditions, I have a compelling urge to declare my intentions.
Today we were at the temple to light butter lamps. I lit a lamp for a beloved shelter cat that is lost and the people who are searching for him. May the Light guide him to safety. If he has left his physical form, may the Light embrace his soul & neutralise all negative imprints & comfort the people who love him.
Whether it is just by the window of my home, or in the presence of a sacred figure of reverence, dedicating a light is one of the ways of expressing respect, support and affection.
And today I also learnt for the first time that the Nepali Buddha I’ve been speaking to for the past 11 years regarding my medicine journeys for animals is none other than the Medicine Buddha himself.
May we be guided as we seek to improve our own lives and the lives of others.
Two days back I lit a butter lamp at the temple for my Christian friend to honour his departed soul. Light is a universal medium of blessing at all stages of life. It does not discriminate between life or death, happy or sad.
My late friend was a man of few words and not given to outward display of emotions.
Some years back, he quietly fed the cat taking refuge under his Volkswagen at his condo. He named him Winfred, and defended him when the neighbour accused the feline of spoiling the paintwork of his Mercedes Benz.
My friend took Winfred to the vet when he was ill, sheltered him when he needed a place to recover, and buried him in a safe place when he passed away so that the orange tabby would never have to stray.
Yesterday I made a donation in my late friend’s name to an animal shelter. He who made us sandwiches on long days at work and allowed me to ransack his work station for snacks & meji biscuits would have approved of money going to the dogs & cats too.
After helping the shelter, the thought of a specific animal rescuer who would appreciate some help came to mind. But I too have a budget to stick by.
Late last night I received a text message from a Catholic friend. She did not know of our Christian friend’s passing nor my wish to help the Muslim lady who works two jobs to help animals.
“Don’t know why but I suddenly had a feeling that I urgently need to transfer some money to you to help some animal,” she texted.
And the sum that my Catholic friend wanted to give away was the exact amount that the Muslim rescuer needed to cover some of the care expenses for an aging dog.
So today on Chokhor Duchen which marks the day when Buddha gave his first teaching, I want to share magic, generosity, kindness and trust in people around us and the ones who have gone before us.
Regardless of our heritage, may our life’s choices put us on the path of compassion & wisdom, for our benefit and the benefit of all sentient beings. 🙏
Shelter cats, Cauliflower Boy & Hoonie aka Divina, were recently treated to a day at the cat spa, courtesy of groomer turned friend, Ong Hong Kuen.
Cats are by nature self cleaning until old age and other infirmities strike. Much like humans, the untidy old woman or dishevelled old man we see at bus stops or food courts must have been dashing once.
On each shelter trip, my friend,Marcus Tan for all his adherence to principles of aesthetics, makes it a point to check on the animals that may not receive as much attention, because they’re not as cute as their younger & healthier counterparts.
In fact, it was him who got me started on cleaning Divina’s face and untangling her knots while he held her. Unlike dogs, cats are more wary and less cooperative with fur cleaning & nail trimming.
Besides, I’m no groomer and the wrong choice of tools can lead to dire outcomes. Therefore I understand for want of skills and equipment, it is still better to have an unkempt looking animal than an injured or bleeding one.
That day at the shelter we did what we could with Divina and as Cauliflower Boy was not familiar with us, we decided to ask for professional help.
And the Universe answered swiftly.
Within a week, our professional groomer friend turned up at the shelter and took both Cauliflower Boy & Divina in her car back to her salon for some needed spa treatment. ON THE HOUSE. She would hear nothing of payment, transport charges etc.
Under her loving hands and in the calm ambience of their surroundings, both cats had an enjoyable session and a complete makeover.
Cauliflower Boy’s milky white bib returned. Once the stains came off, his fluffy belly shone like cotton candy. Divina’s ears cleared and her persian fur regained its gossamar texture.
Little did we know that all the above changes were perhaps in preparation for a miracle about to manifest.
Yesterday, we received news that Cauliflower Boy got adopted!!!
Yes, the boy cat with the deformed ear hence the name Cauliflower, and with a low adoptability potential, has found his home!
And as if to signify a departure from his past afflictions, Cauliflower Boy’s adopter has changed his name to Bernie. ❤️
As for Divina, she will continue to receive love and generate miracles for others at the shelter until such a time a special human appears for her.
In a couple of days, the New Moon will be upon us. May our recent witnessing of how two disadvantaged cats receive new lease of life, also encourage all who read this post that renewal is as much a state of mind and a matter of intention as it is dependent on external factors.
And so may we maximise our capacity as conduits for positive transformations & renewal regardless of how bleak the situation may appear.🙏
This recent full moon observation on 14 April 2022 was extra special to me. Not only it was Good Friday, but it also marked New Year for friends of Nepalese and Khmer heritage.
The confluence of the above high holidays got me on the lookout for auspicious items that would align with the idea of death & resurrection, release & renewal to dedicate a full moon mandala.
However, the reality was eversince Emmanuel the Cat was diagnosed with diabetes a month ago, I’ve been preoccupied with syringes, insulin vial & blood glucose tracking.
As someone with a nervous disposition, I was at first terrified of handling the sharp needles and getting the dosage wrong for Emmanuel. This was apart from having to locate the injection site without making the cat suspicious & without injecting myself accidentally.
It got to a point where my anxiety levels were tied to the fluctuations in Emmanuel’s blood glucose readings.
Doubts filled my waking hours and even in my sleep. Did I really insert the needle correctly? Did the insulin go under his skin? Did I over feed him?
Yesterday I had a mental breakthrough of sorts. I realised I can and should medicate my 15-year old cat to the best of my ability & means, but the medical outcomes are not mine to decide.
That acceptance also liberates me as a caregiver from the fear of not doing enough or not doing it right. Such fears when left unchecked, can turn mean & morph into accusations against the patient for not trying hard enough to get well.
And this morning, as if to show his approval of my approach to his medical issue, Emmanuel turned around to lick my hand as soon as I pushed the plunger to deliver the insulin under his skin. 🙏
Last week, one of my cats, Emmanuel, was admitted for diabetes. His conditions have since stabilised and will be discharged soon.
Since March last year, Emmanuel & Oliver have been waking me up at all kinds of hours through their daily territorial disputes.
Sleep deprived & anxiety-ridden, I wandered the mall last Friday in hope of getting a new cat carrier for Emmanuel’s follow up vet trips as the current one has rusted and is being held together by cable ties.
Emmanuel is 15. Oliver is 16. Both cats are as healthy as can be given their age. But realistic as I am, signs of ill health trigger memories of the suffering of my 10 cats and 1 dog before they passed on over the years. And in Emmanuel’s case, concerns over if I can administer the twice daily insulin jabs occupied my mind.
In the midst of meditating on syringes, the image of the world’s largest mandala, the Boudha Stupa came to me. I was gently reminded to unfetter my mind by accepting all things.
And as I was about to pick up the new cat carrier & head home, a friend texted to ask if we could meet up for tea.
Tea? How could I have time for tea? Don’t you know I’m in the midst of a meltdown? But I resisted my self-centered habitual responses and said “Yes” to tea. And yes, worrying is so dangerously seductive. It gives a false impression of feeling responsible even as it keeps the worrier fixated & drained.
During tea, my friend found out that his evening appointment had been postponed. Since I had no plans except to worry, I accepted his invitation to see the art space he had set up to pursue his pottery passions.
Still thinking of syringes, I was content to just watch my friend at the studio throwing a pot on his newly acquired potter’s wheel.
But he being generous, insisted that I gave the clay a go. He would help me touch up the final product if needed.
And so on Friday evening, while my cat received intravenous fluid at the clinic, I sat at the potter’s wheel in my friend’s studio to connect with the silkiness of wet clay and the coolness of water as I attempted to throw a pot for the first time in 36 years.
As I leaned my elbows on the basin for added stability as taught by my friend, and held the lump of clay firmly in both hands, my breath returned. A centering peace soon emerged from the spinning mandala of a potter’s wheel. It seeped into my fingers, travelled up my arms, touched my shoulder & ascended my head through my neck.
And in that moment, my mind was still even as everything before me was in motion. Sitting at my friend’s potter’s wheel was the break I needed to be unhinged from the cycle of constant worrying & feeling of inadequacy.
I wish all who are reading this post timely inspiration from the Divine and supervision of wise friends in your hour of need.🙏
First Tutee and his uncle dropped by with Nasi Lemak today to wish me Happy Chinese New Year.
First Tutee is now nearly 11 years old, as tall as me and seeing Ollie for the first time since 2020.
Pleased that Ollie still remembered him, and that the scene outside the window where he used to sit to practise his spelling and writing, had remained unchanged, he gushed shyly about spotting his childhood sweets on my dining table.
I asked him to help himself to the White Rabbit Milk Candy pieces. I had prepared a new bag of them for him to bring home later on.
As he unwrapped the candy, he mentioned several times that White Rabbits were his favourite childhood sweets and that he was also born in the Year of the Rabbit.
First Tutee’s delight at seeing Ollie and recalling the names of Hakim, Kitty & China Black who have since passed on, his smiling at the sweets of his childhood and feeling right at ease in a space where he started his preparation to enter primary school showed me a reunion doesn’t always have to revolve around a big meal.
Food & drinks aside, a reunion is also about returning to the people & place that make us feel supported.
And if reunions are meant to evoke memories to embolden us to move forward, then it is wise that during that encounter we refrain from fishing for details in someone else’s personal life unless they are offered on their own accord.
Going home for reunions is such a big deal across cultures & evokes many conflicting emotions in some. May each reunion be a time of reconciliation and mutual support like the one that took place with First Tutee today.
This morning for the first time the two warring cats in my home stood very close to each other to receive pats without erupting into a fight. Normally I have to stroke them separately if I don’t want to lose my eyes.
For a few minutes I had one jealous cat purring on each side of my face within striking distance, while I calmly reminded them what good boys they were when they were kittens.
Against his territorial instincts and to my surprise, Oliver even gave a stunned Emmanuel a couple of licks on the forehead! And Emmanuel returned the favour by sniffing him briefly.
Perhaps they remember what it feels like not to be constantly on guard. And maybe they recall the peace that comes with trusting another.
“Try to remember the kind of September When life was slow and oh, so mellow Try to remember the kind of September When grass was green and grain was yellow…” goes the song by Harvey Schmidt & Tom Jones.
This song and “Bavarian Gentians” by DH Lawrence made September my favourite month of the year.
As September begins, may we try to remember all the good that we’ve received, so that we can be promoters of peace even as we’re often enticed to be agents of hostility. 🙏
My Kinmen grandmother loved jasmines, wore black jacquard brocade satin pants on special occasions, and appreciated beautiful things.
She would buy me little trinkets of real gold but told me not to wear pearls because they were made by making oysters cry.
In my adult years, I would always stop by Mikimoto’s pearls whenever I was in Centrepoint but did not buy any. Even without the tears, I found introducing a foreign matter into an oyster on purpose to cultivate a pearl somewhat disrespectful.
Still, I’ve always loved pearls for their milky shimmer, and their association with the Moon. That was how pearl costume jewellery came into my life.
Over the years, these fake pearls of mine have regularly stopped strangers in their track to smile at me and comment how shiny and bright they look.
Some of my pearls are nearly 20 years old, and peeling. Despite their humble origin, I keep them properly as if they belong to the Queen.
When told that the object of their admiration was not the real deal, the pearl admirers’ enthusiasm did not fade.
Perhaps the faces of men & women light up at the the strands around my neck because they can tell that even though my pearls are fake, the love is real.
And I’m reminded of the conversation between the Velveteen Rabbit and the Skin Horse in Margery Williams’ book for children:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
Divina, the aging shelter cat always perks up when visitor approaches her enclosure.
It doesn’t matter that her fur is unkempt and her whiskers are snotty.
She’ll make an effort to totter from her sleeping space towards anyone that stops by her enclosure without any idea if you’ll still be there by the time she makes the distance to say “hello.”
The life force emanating from this cat’s shrunken frame is unmistakable. It has so far attracted a regular visitor who has a Phd to give her special attention even as he’s charmed and surrounded by many cuter and fatter kitties.
Yesterday Divina’s love for life attracted a professional groomer to drop by.
Moved by her gentle spirit, and encouraged by the glorious morning sunlight, the groomer felt that it was the right time to give the old cat her well deserved spa. Permission from her caregiver was sought and given.
Deftly & decisively, matted knots and dead skins were removed, and dirt filled nails threatening to maim were trimmed.
Shampoo and warm shower followed to wash off all offending residues that had weighed her down. At the sink, I found myself giving thanks to Mother Water.
Back to her enclosure, the ancient cat purred and closed her eyes in dreamy bliss as she was being fluffed & towelled dried.
Yesterday was the Groomer’s day off. And she had chosen to spend a part of her rest & play to serve someone who cannot pay.
I believe with or without the cleaning, Divina’s spirit is pure and loving.
But in the grooming of Divina, I felt we’re in some ways grooming ourselves to be free from impediments & judgements. 🙏