Monday, September 27, 2010

Book: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

A book about a woman's search for happiness. Living a successful married life in New York, but everything just kinda fell apart for her. It was a great read, and woman can be a really complex creature. Eat in Italy, Pray in India, Love in Bali. 
I found her story in India extremely interesting. I would definitely want to stay in one of those Ashrams in the future. Below is an excerpt from the book on her meditation experience:

"...most of us are always moving between three different levels of consciousness - waking, dreaming or deep dreamless sleep. But there is a fourth level too.... which is called turiya. Here's how you can tell if you've reached the turiya state - if you're in a state of constant bliss. One who is living from within turiya is not affected by the swinging moods of the mind, nor fearful of time or harmed by loss. 'Pure, clean, void, tranquil, breathless, selfless, endless, undecaying, steadfast, eternal, unborn, independent, he abides in this own greatness,' say the Upanishads, the ancient Yogic scriptures, describing anyone who has reached turiya state. The great saints, the great Gurus, the great prophets of history - they were all living in the turiya state, all the time. As for the rest of us, most of us have been there, too, if only for fleeting moments.... One instant, you're just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything - for no reason whatsoever - is perfect..."

I got a feeling that most people who read this would think that the author was crazy. I totally believe her, as I have experienced such Wonderful Wonderful Bliss while I was meditating a few years ago. It was PERFECT BLISS & HAPPINESS. I want nothing else, but to stay in that state. However, I have not experienced it since then. =(
Meditation is such a powerful tool.
I hope that I would experience that PERFECT BLISS again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

One New Experience Each Week - Bangalore

Went to Bangalore for a short business trip.

Paid 950 Rps (S$30) instead of 650 Rps for Taxi Service from Airport to the City. Technically speaking, I was on a slow van and not an air-conditioned Taxi. I was abit upset, as I felt cheated paying more and sitting on a touter's vehicle. When we arrived at my hotel, the driver demanded 50% more for the surcharge after 10pm. I was mad, as I explicitly told him before boarding the Taxi that I would pay 950 Rps nett, which would include all the funny charges like toll fees, taxes etc... 
He started to tell me story that he has 2 kids at home, he is a Christian and does not lie. He said that if I don't believe him, I could choose not to pay him. I told him straight into his face that I don't believe him, but I would still pay him 950 Rps as I honor my own word. And I had to fill up the receipt on his behalf.
After giving him 950 Rps, he requested for an additional 50 Rps.
This is the India that I remember.
Welcome to India!
Something never change.
Am I really upset?
Do I hate India?
Not really, as i acknowledge that this is just a way of life in India.
There are still lotsa wonderful souls in India.
Managed to find time for Darshana.
Sri Radha Krishna Temple - the Holiest Temple in Bangalore.
Public Laundry
Uniquely India
I finally saw the Public Laundry! Previously, I saw it on the Amazing Race and other documentaries.

Poster in a shopping mall.
Bangalore is one of the best cities in India. The weather was great (dry and cooling), and generally more cosmopolitan. However, it is still very far from being a cosmopolitan city.
Shiro Restaurant.
The ceiling was 4 storey-high and it has lotsa Buddhist Statues.
Expensive Good Vegetarian Lunch.
Love it. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Written by Bronnie Ware

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life.
Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.
Choose happiness.


Death always brings Clarity to the mind.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Learning to deal with things beyond my control

After 2 consultations with Cardiologist, ECG test, 24Hr Urine Test, 3 Blood Tests, the cardiologist still does not know why I have very high-blood pressure.
Normal Range: 80/120mmHg
Mine: 97/169mmHg
My profile does not suit the typical people with high blood pressure.
I am young.
I am a triathlete.
I exercise 4-5 times per week.
I am a semi-vegetarian.
I do not smoke.
I do not drink.
I do not stress myself.
I have enough sleep.
My family does not have a history of high blood pressure.
The Cardiologist informed me that I would do 3 more tests 2 months later, and if he still could not find out the reason for my very high blood pressure, I would have to be on medication. He could advise nothing else, as I am already living a very healthy lifestyle. That's the Irony of Life.
I know what I can do further.
No more Eggs.
No more Chocolate.
No more Ice Cream.
No more Cheese.
No more Pizza.
No more Sponge Cake.
More Fruits.
More Celery.
He advises me to wait for the result in Nov before I decide if I should participate in the Dec marathon.
What else can I do?
I have done my best.
If my lifespan is shorten, I will not regret.
I have tried my best, and will be at peace with the outcome.
Wish me luck! 

Friday, September 10, 2010

One New Experience Each Week - Buddhist Retreat

Went for my first Buddhist Retreat held at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. It was a 5-days Mindfulness Retreat led by a very famous Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Nanh (Thay - Vietnamese Word for Teacher) (who was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King) and the monks & nuns from the Plum Village (in France).

Cute Statues around the compound.
Monks & Nuns Choir
The monastics are quite progressive and I was quite happy to listen to them singing Buddhist songs in english with some monks playing guitar, violin & cello at the background. It sounded more like soothing New Age music than the traditional Buddhist music. That's good!
The monastics is quite international - One Third of them are Caucasians. The 700+ strong participants are quite diverse as well - quite a number of Caucasians and Indians. Among the crowd, I saw my JC teacher and my University Professor who was very well-respected. Thay also introduced 1 nun who was a  medical doctor in USA and 1 monk who was once a successful businessman and was also a Catholic Priest. The retreat was conducted in english. This is truly a globalized world. 
One of the main rules is to observe the Noble Silence... Despite in dining hall with several hundred people, it was very quiet. No food was wasted and everybody ate mindfully. We were supposed to chew at least 25-30 times, and be mindful of the present moment as well as be grateful for the food.
These are the 5 contemplations that we observe while eating.
Very meaningful.
I left the retreat on the 3rd day. I was struggling to make this decision - I was committed to learn and experience as much as possible (Took Off from work), however, I did not gain new insights from the practices. I have alot of unanswered questions during Thay's Dharma teachings. There was no Q&A session. Telling me that Form = Emptiness & Emptiness = Form, just confused me even more. I believe I was not ready and incapable to comprehend the profound Truth.
I am still grateful towards Thay and the monastics from Plum Village. They really radiate genuine happiness, warmth and kindness. I am proud and happy to know so many wonderful Dharma brothers & sisters working hard towards the alleviation of sufferings in the World. I wish them all the Best and may they attain Enlightenment soon.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

One New Experience Each Week

I am starting this entry of doing something new each week.

Driving a convertible to work
Not mine, but it was still nice experience.
The weather was cooling enough to bring down the top.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Beautiful Things in Life: Portrait of Boon

Portrait of Boon
(Drawn by my 2.5 years-old Niece)
After Keena drew the picture, 
she pointed at it and said "舅"!
Not the nicest depiction of me, but
I just LOVE it.