Yesterday the service staff in his early 50s was struggling with the cash register at the cafe I was having a meal. He might have found the multitude of payment methods these days rather overwhelming.
It didn’t help that the patron before me had left the transaction midway to make an urgent call outside. She said she would come & get her card later.
In between attending to her & handling my order, the older worker might have made an error while keying in the details. As a result he needed his colleague, a lady in her 30s to unlock the cash register for him to proceed.
When the younger staff appeared to rectify the mistake, the older staff was as apologetic as he was nervous. I also saw in the “rectifier’s” face some tension. Perhaps this was her break time. Or perhaps her elderly colleague had made the same mistake too often. And maybe she was shoring up her defense in anticipation of my complaint of poor service etc.
Before the tension escalated further, I offered what I think should be my most benevolent smile at the nervous pair, and said very deliberately, “Don’t worry. Take your time to sort this out. I have time.”
In hindsight, I realised simply saying, “I have time,” causes our facial features to light up. 😄🙏
As soon as my words left my mouth, the energy threatening to suffocate us in that tight little triangle around the cash register dissipated. The younger staff lost her frown as she smiled awkwardly back at me. I could feel the relief emanating from the older staff as he looked at me gratefully.
And in that moment I felt so rich, not because of having money, but because I had averted a potential conflict. My refusal to get irritated might even help restore some confidence in the man trying to navigate the digital maze at his age.
I love looking at the portrayal of Avalokithesvara seated in heavenly ease pose. And maybe some of that peaceful energy has rubbed off on me.
So on this new moon day, may I wish all my friends and sentient beings, the heavenly ease of Avalokithesvara in your daily encounters.
May we be at ease, so that others can be at ease too. 🙏🌈🐾
Away from classroom teaching and having my commitment to impart knowledge reduced to just twice a week at a tuition centre, I find myself growing quieter over the months.
Unless it’s life threatening, I’m learning to resist the compulsion to explain, to justify or to convince. After all, when it comes to issues that truly matter, words are just not enough.
That said, I did wonder if aging has made me anti-social, indifferent or worse still, turned me into a subaltern?
Apart from the increased silence, I’ve also started wearing the pearl trinkets I bought during my 30s. I had forgotten how pearls brighten up against black.
And each time someone smiles or says something nice at the sight of pearls around my neck, I’m reminded to heed the “Pearls of Wisdom.”
While growing silent and wearing faux pearls I also revisit my cache of oils, incense and perfumes.
Since my last trip to Nepal in 2019, I’ve been lighting palo santo wood to give thanks to the sun and to dedicate light to the living and the dead each morning.
Memories of my grandma dabbing scented oils on us surface regularly.
A few days ago I was rubbing Moroccan argan oil mixed with lavender & patchouli on a coconut shell necklace.
“It would be good to be a quiet old lady who also smells nice,” a voice in my head went.
Two days ago a former student and his wife took me out to lunch.
It was our first meet up in 2020. Unsure of how gathering rules might change in the coming new year, , they also took the opportunity to mark my birthday in 2021 in advance.
At that lunch I received a book gift from the husband, and a perfume gift from the wife.
The book was a copy of “Quiet” by Susan Cain.
Receiving “Quiet,” from my former student felt like I was given the permission to be quiet without the fear of withdrawing from life, or becoming forgotten.
From his wife, I received perfume from Korea that came in a bottle most exquisitely crafted.
Its hues, gold and crystal details immediately reminded me of Goddess Tara as envisioned by the artist who drew it for Street Dog Care in Nepal a few years back.
And I felt so honoured that the giver thought of me the moment she saw the lovely bottle that held the peony fragrance.
And thus my aspiration to grow into a quiet old lady who speaks words of wisdom when necessary while smelling good was facilitated at the lunch hosted by a young couple on 28th December, the eve of the full moon.
May we trust that our aspirations to be the best that we can be as age catches up will be graciously provided for through those who are born after us.
Today we visited an animal shelter for cats & dogs.
I’m beginning to see life as a series of crossings all sentient beings have to make. Some crossings are very hard. Besides providing food and care for animals, we might help them cross from sickness and fear to more auspicious states through our prayers and personal rituals.
So I brought sage leaves and prayer flags with me to the shelter in hope that they might be of service.
After wiping down the cats, I came to the end of the shelter corridor where a stupa stood on a metal trolley.
A stupa is sanskrit for a dome structure used for buddhist meditation or for holding sacred texts and relics. Stupas vary in size. Some are small enough to be placed on dashboards.
I think the stupa at Boudha in Kathmandu, Nepal, is probably the largest on the planet. Walking around it can cultivate wisdom and compassion. The stupa that needed cleaning today was about half my height.
As I was removing dust from the stupa with a wet cloth, a large orange cat suddenly hopped onto the trolley top. He began weaving around the stupa as if he was making a circumambulation with his body!
When I managed to peel him off the stupa, he wrapped his paws around my neck and started purring and rubbing his face against mine affectionately.
I lit a sprig of sage leaves and passed their white plumes of aromatic smoke over and around the stupa after the cleaning was done.
Then holding the burning sage, I walked down the length of the corridor and paused at each animal enclosure.
The cats were fascinated. Many came towards me and lingered at the wire mesh to be closer to the smoke blessings.
Even their 17 year old dog snoozing at the doorway got up and joined us.
At the section that housed the dogs, we were barked at. Then as their eyes followed the smoke and their ears picked up the prayers, many calmed down.
A girl dog with gentle eyes wagged her tail merrily at us and wouldn’t let us out of her sight.
As I prayed for the animals to be healthy and happy, and to be released from all causes of difficulties in life, I realised I was essentially praying for myself.
Towards late afternoon, my friend raised the prayer flags over the entrance to bless everyone.
We learnt that the shelter caregiver’s late mom had been wanting to get a set of prayer flags for their shelter since they moved here. But the daily upkeep of the place and looking after animals left them with little time or energy to go looking for prayer flags.
My friend initiated this shelter visit about 2 weeks ago. The sage leaves were given to me recently. The prayer flags were gifts from years ago. I learnt that today is the feast day of the archangels.
All these seemingly random occurrences have come together to facilitate my intentions to support animals and their caregivers. And it brings me comfort to know that the prayer flags put up today will be fluttering under the light of the mid-autumn full moon in a day’s time.
I was sending a parcel of mooncakes that might cheer up a friend who hadn’t been home to Singapore for some time.
The courier company was located in the Big Box Mall which was now deserted as many businesses had closed and vacated.
The island wide safe entry requirements had closed off a number of exits and entrances in the cavernous building. Coupled with a lack of signages, and with the premises boarded all around, I couldn’t tell which was the correct drop off that would lead me to the courier office.
My Grab ride was only $ 7. And for that little sum, the Grab driver drove me around the circumference of Big Box compound 3 times, and once up into the multi-story car park, hoping to find someone who could direct us to the correct door so that I wouldn’t have to walk too much.
“No, no, no! We have to find the right entrance,” he insisted, his hands clutching the steering wheel firmly.
While we were circumambulating the expo-like compound in his car, he told me about the ridiculous lengths he had to cover during his recent medical visit because the usual access routes in the hospital were blocked off for safe entry/ exit purposes.
He didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.
When I pointed out a possible drop off, he kept asking incredulously,”Are you sure?”
Actually I wasn’t sure, but I felt it wasn’t fair of me to use up his time and energy like that.
I had to practically assure him that I would be alright, before he would let me alight. And for a brief moment, I thought I saw him calibrating in his mind if he could defy the rules and drive beyond the barricades just to ease my journey.
May my friend who asked for these mooncakes and gave me the chance to experience such uncommon compassion of a Grab driver be protected in all her journeys overseas.
And may the Grab driver be restored to good health. 🙏