Sunday, April 29, 2012

'I don't choose to be right, I choose to be happy.'

"I don't choose to be right, I choose to be happy"

A lot of time, we ended up in argument, especially with our loved ones, over really petty things. And most of the time, it is because of our pride and ego. Even though we might be right, it is quite meaningless to prove it.

When someone else makes a mistake, we do not need to say "I told you so". 
It does not help in improving the situation. Such meaningless remarks just create more tension.
In my view, the person is definitely more important than my need to be right.

I do not need to be right.
It is more important to be happy.

I choose to be happy =)
(Taken @ Cusco, Peru)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Qingming Festival & My Extended Family

I appreciate Qingming Festival as I grew older. It is part of our Chinese Tradition that should be preserved and passed on to the future generations. It is a good time for family members to get together and show our gratitude to our deceased relatives and ancestors. It is also a reminder of the importance of family ties as well as filial piety.

This is my first time visiting Indonesia during Qingming Festival to pay my respects to my deceased maternal grandparents as well as my deceased relatives.

My maternal grandmother

Last October, I wrote about my maternal grandmother. She was a wonderful and strong person. My eldest aunt was moved to tears when she told us (younger generation) how great a person my maternal grandmother was. In fact, my maternal grandmother was raised in a good family in China and she was literate (which was a rarity for women of her time). Unfortunately, she had to work very hard to raise 4 young children single-handedly, and she passed away before she could enjoy the fruit of her labour.

My maternal grandfather

This is my first time visiting the grave of my maternal grandfather, who passed away almost 50 years ago. I had never met him and was curious about him. For many years, the only thing I knew about him was he died young because he was alcoholic. During this trip, I learnt that he was literate and had a good handwriting, and he was a smart person who had the skill of repairing watches.

When I looked at maternal grandfather, I felt an instant connection with him. Among my extended family, I am the ONLY person who inherits a unique physical characteristic of my maternal grandfather – a protruding lower jaw (which I prefer not to have). It is a funny feeling to be at the grave of someone whom I have never met, and yet, I know that he is part of me. 

My nieces and nephews (children of my cousins) were having fun running around the graveyard and asking innocent questions. They are reminders of the renewal process of life. Soon, my generation would be replaced by them.  And soon, they would be replaced as well.

This is the law of the Impermanence of Life.

I am thankful and grateful to spend quality time with my extended family, and staying at my aunt’s place, where I felt familiar and safe. Even though we did not have time to meet often, we had so much to share and talk that we talked deep into the night.

Family has always been an important pillar of my life, and it will always be. 
Always remember to show gratitude to my family.
Thankful to be born in a family of good people.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

10 days Vipassana Meditation Retreat

A few years ago, when I noticed a change in my friend’s behavior after she returned from a retreat in India. I only knew that it was free and very tough. Later, I met more people who have done it and all of them gave good review of this ancient Buddhist technique.

I was very intrigued about this technique, when I watched this movie about the introduction of the vipassana meditation technique in an Alabama prison. View this Youtube Video.

About 2 months ago, a good friend had a tragedy in his life. When I asked how he was coping with it, he told me that this technique helped him greatly and he highly recommended me to try this meditation technique.
I went for this course @ St John Island. This organization has presence in most countries, you can refer to the website:

(St John Island - Meditation Hall)

This is a FREE course, but not an easy one. There are rules to be observed throughout the 10 days – Noble Silence (No communication, including eye-contact with anyone), 2 Vegetarian Meals each day (Breakfast & Lunch), Taking the 5 precepts (ie. No killing of any being; No stealing; No sexual activity; No lies; No intoxicants), No entertainment (ie. No book; No writing material; No handphone/mp3 player; No diary; No writing), No exercise (except walking), No religious objects or ornaments, Modest dressing, No perfume or accessories.

The rough daily routine was – 4am wake up, 4.30am meditation, 6.30am Breakfast & rest, 8.00am Meditation, 11am Lunch & rest, 1pm Meditation, 5pm Tea Break & rest, 6pm Meditation, 7pm Discourse, 8.30pm meditation, 9pm Free time, 10pm Sleep.

This is the rough course (remember: I did not have any paper to jot down). First 2 days, we were supposed to observe our breath only. On the 3rd day, we observed the sensation on nose area. On the 4th day, we observed the sensation on the upper lip. On the 5th day, we observed the sensation on different parts of the body by moving our awareness. On the 6-10th day, we were supposed to observe the sensation throughout the body by mentally sweeping across it.

Physically, it was tough. I had back-pain and shoulder-pain from seating on the upright position for long time. Mentally, it was even tougher. My monkey brain was filled with random thoughts that arise and disappear without my consent. However, I am surprised how my mind works.

For instance, if I focus my concentration on the subtle vibration on my head or other parts of the body, the back & shoulder pain became less intense and disappeared at times. But as soon as I divert my concentration back to my back & shoulder, the pain came back and intensified.
And finally, I could sit down and meditate continuously for 1 hour!

The 2 core pillars of this meditation is cultivated the qualities of EQUANIMITY and AWARENESS.  And always be mindful of the IMPERMANENCE OF LIFE. Anicca Anicca Anicca. Everything in Life Changes. (ie. The sensation experienced throughout our body, our thoughts, our emotions, our decaying body, our physical possessions, our relationships etc…) A lot of sufferings arises from Cravings and Aversions. Attachment to any craving brings suffering. Aversion to any pain brings suffering too.

I left the retreat with slight disappointment, as I went there with the wrong expectation. I was hoping to understand or experience the quality of EMPTINESS and BUDDHANATURE, but that was not the objective of this meditation. Nevertheless, I realized the benefits of this technique immediately – I was more aware of my speech and behaviour, and even my thoughts. I was less reactive, and I caught my thoughts before I react in speech. That’s really good.

I would recommend this retreat to anyone irregardless of religious & societal background.
The 10 days retreat is only the beginning, and the real challenge is to practice the meditation on a daily basis. That would be really difficult.

Mr Goenka (the current teacher) said that there are 2 yardsticks to measure if you are progessing well on the path:
1. Compassion 
(Are you more willing to serve others? Are you more willing to help the weak and needy? Are you giving without expecting any return?)
2.       Gratitude 
(Are you feeling more grateful for everything?)