Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Ajahn Brahm

The Humorous, Wise and Compassionate Ajahn Brahm
(Got this picture of Ajahn Brahm from another website, but this is the feeling of listening to his talk)

Below are some of my key takeaways from the talk:

If there is problem in a relationship/family/organization, it is not my problem, and it is not the other person's problem. It is OUR problem. 

Loving your enemy is the only way to prevent them from hurting you. Loving your enemy is preventing them from taking away a sense of peace, love and compassion from you.

How to deal with an angry/jealous person? Be compassionate towards them. You only have to deal with them for a short while, but they are suffering from their anger/jealousy 24/7.

If people are giving negative comments, don't take their words seriously.

Love and be compassionate to yourself. Expand this love and compassion to your family, then to your friends, then to your community, then to your enemy and then to the whole world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Game Show

My first time watching the recording of a Game Show - We Are Singaporeans.
Well, the host (Hosan Leong) was funny, but the overall experience was okay.

(9 Celebrity Icons & 3 Contestants)

My friends and I were surprised by the strict censorship in Singapore Media. We know there are lotsa censorship on matters like vulgarities, harsh languages, speaking Chinese dialect, racial & religious related matter etc..., but we did not know that word like "INFLATION" was sensitive. May be because the General Election is just around the corner, hence, INFLATION (which everybody experiences now) is sensitive.

The host was merely commenting that due to inflation, the kachang puteh price had increased so much over the years. Then, the recording stopped and the producer requested him not to use such sensitive word. Well, I found the host to be quite funny when there were no recordings. I guess censorship would naturally stiffen creativity of the host, which is one of the reasons for boring local programmes.

Fortunately, there are cable tv programmes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Buddhist Meditation Retreat

Last week, I went for my first meditation retreat led by Ajahn Sujato (An Aussie Monk). I guess this is the closest I would get to live a monastic life. We have to observe the 8 precepts for the 4-days retreat:

1. I undertake to abstain from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human).
2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (for example stealing, displacements that may cause misunderstandings).
3. I undertake to abstain from sexual activity.
4. I undertake to abstain from wrong speech: telling lies, deceiving others, manipulating others, using hurtful words.
5. I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness.
6. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is after sunrise, before noon).
7. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
8. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and overindulging in sleep.

We had to observe the Noble Silence, which means no talking (not too difficult for me). No Phone Call, No Text Messages, No Email, No Music/MP3, No Facebook, No News, No Entertainment for 4 days is challenging. Having Vegetarian Breakfast & Lunch was easy. No Solid Food after 1pm was surprisingly easy (we were given abit of cheese and chocolate in the evening). Sleeping on the floor was tough, I had a stiff neck on the second night.

The daily routine was waking up at 5am; Short 5mins chanting; followed by 1.5hr meditation; 1hr Breakfast; 1hr Meditation; 1.5hr Dharma Talk; 0.5hr Break; 1.5hr Guided Meditation; 1hr Lunch; 1.5hr Meditation/Rest; 2hr Self-practice Meditation; 1hr Refreshment; 1.5hr Meditation; 1.5hr Q&A Session; 1hr Wash up; Sleep.

Meditation at 6am. 
(Obviously I wasn't meditating)

I wanted to leave on the second day as well as the third day. I was really struggling with my meditation. My mind could not settle down. On the second day, I felt lethargic and body was aching from sitting upright, so i decided to take a "short" nap, while others were meditating. I woke up and realized that I slept for 3 HOURS!!! The worse thing was I felt dizzy after the nap. I felt lousy for the lack of discipline and determination. In fact, I breached the 8th precept of indulging in sleep.

My worries kept surfacing up, and I told myself that I could not anything about it NOW, as I am in the retreat. I needed to stop worrying. I felt really unaccomplished, but at least, I finished reading a book during the retreat (while I was not meditating).

Ajahn Sujato impressed me during the Q&A session. He is quite knowledgeable in various topics other than  Buddhism like Recent Scientific Findings, Sanskrit/Pali Suttas, Christianity, Vedic literature, Psychology etc... Actually, it is not his knowledge that I was impressed, it was his unassuming, humble, kind and gentle manner. I was glad to meet a good role model. 

When I left the retreat and was happy to indulge in worldly senses (eating, swimming, listening music, watching tv, chatting). I kept asking if I had wasted 4 days. I did not realized that I learnt something until I left the retreat.

I was so much at peace with life and people around me. I was not bothered by small details about life & people. I reaffirmed the fact that I don't need a lot of physical possession to be happy. I was reminded not to cling on to my ego (don't need to be defensive or agitated over bad criticism/remarks). I was learning to let go of things beyond my control (as long as I have done my best). I was reminded to enjoy my short journey, and stop worrying the uncertain future. I was grateful.

Not sure if I can sustain this level of optimism and peace, especially in a stressful and competitive society.
Well, at least I have experienced it. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sense of Peace

(Taken @ Kuta Beach, Bali)

I may lose my wealth.
I may lose my health.
I may lose my family & friends.
But with a kind & compassionate heart,
I will not lose my sense of Peace.
I can always walk upright 
Anytime. Anywhere.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Challenging period for the World

It is challenging to feel happy and upbeat about the current situation of the World.
Natural Disasters - Earthquake in Japan & New Zealand, Radiation Hazards in Japan & regions.
Political Unrest - Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and the whole Middle-East.
Economic Woes - "Bankrupt" Govt in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece; Extremely high-debt, high unemployment and struggling economy in 3rd largest economy (Japan) & the only superpower (USA); High inflation across the globe especially in developing countries like China.
Many people are dying, or trying to survive or recover.
Many people are struggling with life, uncertain about future.
Well, it is during crisis that we learn more. 
What did I learn (relearn)? 
Life is ever-changing and unpredictable.
Challenges are part of valuable life experiences.
Letting go of things beyond my control.
Stop thinking about negative things.
Focus on the positive things in life.
Learning to be grateful.
Living in peace is a gift. 
Being alive is the greatest Miracle (which we often take it for granted).
Remember "This Too Will Pass".

Monday, March 14, 2011

Millionaire Express; Millionaire Regress

Millionaire Express; Millionaire Regress
This news article set me thinking for the past 1 week.

On the front page, it showed a 35 years old entrepreneur who started his business with S$300K back in 2002 and pocketed S$80m recently by selling to a listed company. The contrast was an updated of 49 years old Fandi Ahmad (The icon of the Singapore football in the 90s), whose fall was dramatic – downgraded from a landed property to living with his mother in a Yishun HDB flat, lost money in his business ventures, his wife was suffering from medical conditions like loss of memory... and he was betting on his football academy and his kids (who were gifted in soccer and are training in AC Milan) to make it big again.

In the early 90s, Fandi Ahmad’s marriage was a big thing in Singapore. He is Singapore’s first millionaire sportsman and married a beautiful Model from South Africa. Back then, he mentioned that he would be so financially well-off that he could retire for the rest of his life in a few years time. He was living the PREFECT life – Rich, Successful, Beautiful Wife, Famous & full of confidence. What more can a person want? Not sure if he has the Wisdom of Life.

Isn’t Life interesting? This really set me thinking.

Who is more successful? The 35 years-old millionaire or Fandi Ahmad (ex-millionaire)?

Life is always in a constant flux of change. 
That’s the law of the impermanence of Life. 

When you are rich, please do not be arrogant, you might fall anytime & tragedy might strike when you least expected it. When you are poor, please do not be discouraged, there is always hope and opportunity in life, you might just strike it big when you least expected it.

I am learning to be detached from identifying myself and others with their financial positions. Well, this is tough when we are living in the world of Capitalism. We identify others with their houses, their cars, their clothes, their jobs, their alma mater, and plenty of other things. I am definitely guilty as well, and at times, I do feel sick and tired of this, as it brings unnecessarily sufferings.

At the end of the day,
Remember “This too will pass.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Horse Betting

Feeling that I am lazying in my comfort zone & routine and taking life for granted. So I decided to continue with my "One New Experience Each Week" initiative. And I am glad that I did it. Last Sunday, I went to Turf Club the first time in my life and tried horse betting.

Viewing the horse racing in comfort. 
However, the best atmosphere is at the ground floor with all the "uncles and aunties" shouting loudly & rudely in Hokkien. I understand the excitement of horse racing - the need to do thorough research on the track record of the horse, jockey, the course (long or short distance, sand or soil), the uncertainties like the climate & the unpredictable horse temperament. 

Most of the gamblers are old people. Turf Club is facing a real aging problem!

There are many different ways to bet and the winning odds varies accordingly. You can bet on the winning horse, the top 3 positions, the combination and/or permutation of the top 3 or 4 positions. Yes, it can be quite confusing. If you place a $2 bet on the top 4 positions correctly, your payout is around $9,000. Not bad, but the odds is low.

Self-Help Betting Kiosk which is connected to your ATM, and there is NO LIMIT to the betting sum. This could literally wipe out your savings. Really too convenient and dangerous for those people without self-discipline. This machine should be banned!

I am surprised and disturbed about the sophistication of the whole setup. There is around 30mins interval between each race, and during that interval you could bet on the races in Hong Kong & Macau, and view them "live" on TV. All these horse racing clubs are co-ordinating well to milk more money from the gamblers.

Well, the only happy outcome was that I lost money ($70 on betting & $7 for entrance fees) in 1.5hr. I could really feel the adrenalin rushing and the tense atmosphere during the race. I was a gambler at heart, as I was driven by greed and was taking more risk (betting on the underdog or the "underhorse").   

This is a wonderful experience and lesson for me. I won't come back again, as I would definitely lose more money because of my greedy nature. Losing $70 is a cheap way to understand myself. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bye Triathlon & Marathon...

Bye my bike...

I gave away StandChart Marathon ticket last Dec, and gave away my roadbike last month. I would not do endurance sports again, unless there is a very good reason to pick it again.  I felt sad when I bid farewell to my roadbike.

I spent some money, energy and lotsa of time purchasing triathlon related items, participating in races, and training almost every day.  I understand why people can get addicted to triathlon. I understand why people could wake up at unearthly hour of 5am to cycle. I understand why people feel sad if they don’t exercise. I understand why people can be so inspired by triathlon.

I am really glad that I picked up the sport. It was a wonderful experience to feel alive and push my limit. I would also miss the time when I train with my friends. I would miss the excitement of participating in the race, swimming in the sea during sunrise, running hard even though I was tired...

The best thing about triathlon is that it breaks my self-limiting belief. There is immense self-satisfaction to overcome challenges and pushing myself hard. And it was kinda cool to do triathlon, as it is a lifestyle associated with the more affluent & fit people.

When i first started, I set my goal at finishing Olympic Distance Triathlon. Then I completed Half Ironman Triathlon, but I would never complete a full Ironman Triathlon. That’s okay with me.

Unfortunately, the doctor had recommended me not to do endurance sports anymore, and coincidentally, I think it is the right time to spend my time and energy on other more important aspects of life. It comes a time when I started asking myself: What do I achieve at the end of the day? Am I still enjoying triathlon as much as before? Should I spend my time, energy and effort on more important things? Am doing it to prove to others or myself?

Well, there is a time for everything. Been there Done that. Time to move on...

“The medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn’t last. It’s all about your happiness” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee

I am happy that I have experienced it. I am happy to give it up as well. =)