Messenger on 11-11

12 November 2019

It was full moon last night.

After dedicating a mandala, I met up with a friend for dinner. I had been wanting to hand him a souvenir from Taipei since September.

It was an access card holder with peacock embroidery on it. I bought 3 of them and two have already found delighted owners.

The 3rd piece was a bit tricky to give away because this friend and I seldom meet. By the way, the intended recipient of this gift has spent nearly his whole life studying birds.

I was slowly doubting the necessity for an ornithologist to own an embroidered bird as a keepsake when he’s surrounded by REAL feathered beings every day. 😄

I had my “selling ice to an eskimo” moments which made me harbour thoughts of keeping the gift for myself.

But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Last night, not only was my friend very very pleased with the gift from Taipei. It turned out that he’ll be there this December for new year countdown!

As he learnt about my September visit to Taipei and Kinmen Island, my grandma’s birthplace, he became intrigued by the latter.

He wanted to know more about the old streets, slow life and ancient houses. His eyes shone in wonderment when I told him about the abundance of blue peacocks on the island.

By the time dinner ended, my friend was thinking of including Kinmen Island in his new year celebration.

After we parted ways, I saw a young man on the linking bridge between Westgate Mall and JEM Mall. He was aiming his cell phone camera at something in the distant.

As I followed his hands, my eyes landed on a Peacock shimmering away outside the Jurong East MRT Station.

The Peacock, despite his majestic beauty, is associated with humility and magnanimity. Being light-footed, he carries his magnificence with ease. He is a reminder not to turn blessings into burdens because of our craving for control.

Blueberry Mandala on New Moon

28 Oct 2019

May the new moon tonight illuminate the path of all who are facing changes in their lives.

Whether it’s about starting an apprenticeship or leaving a job, getting married or becoming alone, finding a home or returning to the streets, may the new moon bestow a spirit of bravery on all sentient beings.

Full Moon Blessings from Youth

13 Oct 2019

A week before some students texted to say they would like to drop by. Their exams just ended.

As I had a prior commitment they visited yesterday instead.

“…we have graduated …but we’ll never forget your kindness.” – student moving onto Year 5.

They came bearing gifts of fruits, food, scents and words, and made me feel like a village school teacher in the old days.

Before their visit, I also met up with a young Nepali undergrad doing her part for stray animals in her country. Yesterday she found the medicine she urgently needed to bring home for a rescuer and her sick kittens.

And yesterday happened to be full moon. According to Krison it was also Myanmar’s Thandingyut Festival, where youngsters honour older members of the family & community.

Unrest among youth and confrontations between generations dominate the news of late. The unseen suffering of animals continue even without media coverage.

In the midst of the above, may the love and grit of the youth I met on this full moon bring reconciliation between the young and the old, and healing for all sentient beings recovering from trauma and sickness. 🙏

Wishes of happiness, health & peace from Yang Liu, the calligrapher of these auspicious words

Dancing Alone

12 Oct 2019

Bought this pair of Mary Jane in Houpu, Kinmen Island, where my grandma was born.

Buying new footwear is usually a happy experience because firstly it means you have legs to begin with, and secondly you have the money to spend.

But for me there’s always some anxiety because firstly the shoes I currently own must be falling apart, and secondly, the retailers may not stock the shoe types that meet the conditions of my feet. (Shoes don’t keep well in our humid climate so it’s pointless to purchase standby pieces)

Bought this pair with Ron & El on full moon day in Taipei after our temple visit.

As my left foot has no gripping ability, Mary Janes have become a necessity. As my left sole needs to be elevated to compensate my limp & reduce fatigue, Mary Janes with flat soles made of certain materials are non-negotiables.

The man who makes my shoe purchase a wearable reality is a cobbler who has been faithfully elevating my sole for years.

With compassion, wisdom & great skills, my cobbler made my shoe purchase a wearable reality. (11 Oct 2019)

He’s the man I think about before I buy any new shoes. ♥️😊

We speak about 3-4 times once every 2 years. And it’s always about my shoes and when will they be ready for collection after he has done the sole elevation.

I used to think he was just a slow cobbler but through years of interaction with him, I realised he puts in a lot of thought & effort into the shoes that are entrusted to him for mending and alteration.

Whether you are bringing him a pair of Chanels, Ferragamos or Batas, this soft-spoken, bespectacled scholarly-looking cobbler treats all clients with cautious non-attachment.

And when my shoes are ready for collection, it’s never just a business transaction. With a child-like pride, he’ll point out to me the customisation that’s been done and his thought processes behind them.

From him I learnt that there’s no one-size -fits-all solution with foot issues. His wisdom and compassion in making the best fit for people who go to him cost him a lot of time and energy, and sometimes his reputation. His dedication just cannot be measured in dollars & cents.

My cobbler hasn’t increased his charges with my shoe work for years. When I insisted on paying him a bit more, he stuck to the old price & said, “It’s ok. I can still manage. The main thing here is you can walk more easily.”

Perhaps it’s bec I have only one functioning leg, this dance pose of Lord Ganesha is very attractive to me. I wish for my cobbler the stamina to stand on one foot like the Lord Ganesha, and receive blessings of good clients and prosperity as he works alone to bring relief to all whose shoes need mending & realignment as they complete their own dance in life.

Of all the depictions of Lord Ganesha, my favourite has always been the one in which he stands on one foot and dances the Universe into being.

My cobbler is operating his business all on his own now. His business partners have left because they felt that the return on investment was not promising.

So I wish for my cobbler the stamina to stand on one foot like Lord Ganesha, and receive the blessings of good clients & prosperity as he works alone to bring relief to all who need shoe repair and realignment in order to complete their own dance with life. 🙏

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.

Almost Full Moon in Kinmen


The evening before we flew back to Taipei, we sat on a stone ledge near Grandma Ongg’s (翁奶奶) house in Kinmen Island and watched the moon rise. I was back to 5 years old again.

Grandma Ongg’s house is behind the stone ledge we sat on.

Some tourists passed us by. Too bogged down by their shopping bags and a bit anxious to locate their homestay houses they didn’t notice the Moon glowing benevolently above them.

The Moon wasn’t full yet, but her brilliance wasn’t any less because of that.

84-year-old Grandma Ongg had spotted us from the entrance of her 400-year-old house and decided to join us for a bit of moon watching.

We chatted in low tones and looked to the Moon as she weaved in & out of the clouds, her circular outline gaining prominence while we waited for her in the gathering dusk.

How often in our struggles with life we insist that we gotta be this or that in order to feel complete, when perhaps we are essentially complete. We just need time & space to notice it.

Grandma Ongg’s ancient house had been bombed 4 times. Each time it was bombed, they picked up the pieces and repaired the damages.

Like the almost full moon in Kinmen, we can still shine even if we’re chipped around the corners, or frayed around the edges by life’s challenges.