Thursday, 17 October 2019

Fail Better

Sharing this story by Venerable Pema Chodron. Hope it gives us a boost whenever we are down and out, feeling despondent and dejected in life.  Hope we fail better....

Pema Chodron had an interview with Naropa University’s founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and it was during the time when her life was completely falling apart, and she went there because she wanted to talk about the fact that she was feeling like such a failure and so raw.

But when she sat down in front of him, he said, “How is your meditation?”

She replied, “Fine.”

And then they just started talking, superficial chatter, until he stood up and said, “It was very nice to meet you,” and started walking me to the door. In other words, the interview was over.

And so at that point, realizing the interview was over, Pema Chodron just blurted out her  whole story:

My life is over. 
I have hit the bottom.
I don’t know what to do.
Please help me.

And here is the advice Trungpa Rinpoche gave. He said, “Well, it’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea.”

So, basically, you stand up, because the “lying there” choice equals dying. Metaphorically lying there is what a lot of us choose to do at that point. But you can choose to stand up and start walking, and after a while another big wave comes and knocks you down.

You find yourself at the bottom of the ocean with sand in your nose and sand in your mouth, and again you have the choice to lie there or to stand up and start walking forward. 

“So the waves keep coming,” he said. “And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward.”

This was his advice to her.

Trungpa then said, “After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller and smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore.”

That is good life advice.

It isn’t that the waves stop coming; it’s that because you train in holding the rawness of vulnerability in your heart, the waves just appear to be getting smaller and smaller, and they don’t knock you over anymore.

“Fail better” means you begin to have the ability to hold what I call “the rawness of vulnerability” in your heart.

Fail, then fail again, and then maybe you start to work with some of the things I’m saying. And when it happens again, when things don’t work out, you fail better. In other words, you are able to work with the feeling of failure instead of shoving it under the rug, blaming it on somebody else, coming up with a negative self-image—all of those futile strategies.

“Fail better” means you begin to have the ability to hold what I call “the rawness of vulnerability” in your heart, and see it as your connection with other human beings and as a part of your humanness. Failing better means when these things happen in your life, they become a source of growth, a source of forward, a source of, “out of that place of rawness you can really communicate genuinely with other people.”

Your best qualities come out of that place because it’s unguarded and you’re not shielding yourself. Failing better means that failure becomes a rich and fertile ground instead of just another slap in the face. That’s why, in the Trungpa Rinpoche story that I shared, the waves that are knocking you down begin to appear smaller and have less and less of an ability to knock you over. And actually maybe it is the same wave, maybe it’s even a bigger wave than the one that hit last year, but it appears to you smaller because of your ability to swim with it or ride the wave.

And it isn’t that failure doesn’t still hurt. You lose people you trust and love. All kinds of things happen that break your heart, but you can hold failure and loss as part of your human experience and that which connects you with other people.

Adapted from Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown by Pema Chodron. Copyright © 2015 by Pema Chodron. 

Saturday, 21 September 2019

An Ode To The Past

Every day, Facebook is showing up all the past memories which I have posted previously. So heartwarming to remember some of those sweet memories. Let's recap...

My friend Judy has left 6 years ago. I've known her only for a brief 3 years but she has shared with me so much about her life in the Dharma. She made me realised we need not necessarily live a long life if a short brief life was truly meaningful learning and practising the Dharma. 
A NG group shot. We have taken so many group photos over the years. How fun we were in the past after each event or puja.

The constructing of the gigantic 35 Buddhas thangka in progress and it was finally ready last year. So many people came forth to make their offerings for this. #lastinitiative

Ice cream sharing sessions on random weekday evenings after a simple fish soup dinner.

One Vesak Day 3 years ago which we spent raising funds for the building of the new centre. A meaningful day doing car wash for people.

A month long retreat made so much endearing with homecooked soup every dinner by Mama.

Numerous momo parties with monks. They made me start loving momos and appreciating the Tibetan culture. 

First visit to Zong Rinpoche's house 7 years ago, the start of meeting many authentic teachers.

Two years ago when we were painting, washing the new centre, I was there every single weekend and some weekdays too.

How the cleansing pujas on Sundays have benefitted those who needed it.

Dhasa memories with the group, we were like monkeys at times. At least I've fulfilled HHDL's instruction to me.

Hanging around and free to roam Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup's house for a few days, admiring his holy relics, proof of his practice.

How tiring each Grand Puja was but how ever-ready we were when we prepared for it.

Having many makan sessions with this bunch. We used to go for supper or dinner or special occasion. Missing Annie, my senior Dharma sister who left almost 2 years ago.

Surprising Mari with an impromptu cake on her birthday. Surprises, sometimes not pre-planned, are so much more fun and sincere.

The group of monks having a fun moment during a coffee break.
Collecting pre-loved stuff for Haitian donation drive. We were literally on our feet the whole day guiding traffic and collecting stuff from donors, rain or shine for continuously a couple of weeks. 

Surprising someone with a birthday cake. When I heard it was the first time this friend had ever received a cake for a birthday, I was very touched and humbled.

Buying mixed nuts mooncake as a surprise for a Dharma friend during Mid Autumn Festival as he had just lost his wife a few months back. His wife used to buy this moon cake for him every year. 

Thanking Zong Rinpoche for being here. May I in all my lifetimes be able to meet precious teachers and Dharma until enlightenment.

Remembering Geshe Ngawang Longtho who was such an accomplished monk in his time. 

Adding potatoes to curry, so many wonderful meals and happy times in the kitchen at the old place. 

Singing /chanting to the lovely tunes of Rinpoche's name mantra at the Retreat House. The tune is forever stuck in my head and my guru is in my heart always. 

Personal audience and offerings to a visiting teacher. May the teachers come again and again to benefit us, in this lifetime and future lifetimes. 

This is ancient and precious ... Lati Rinpoche's final trip to Singapore. My niece was with me too. 

17.07.2017. Magic date of the opening of the new centre. I remember I was so exhausted that day. I was taking the photos instead of carrying holy objects  like the rest during the march in. 

Port Dickson trip with my guru Dagyab Rinpoche and monks. So fortunate to hang out with my teacher as he strolled along the beach, but I was so OMG shy in front of him. Thank you for guiding me, Rinpoche. 

Many instinctively fell to their knees when Choden Rinpoche arrived. I might not have received that many teachings from him, but he had touched my heart deeply. He promised to guide me in every lifetime. 

At a holy place reciting the heart sutra. Thank you for being so kind to me at times when everything was against me.
At a kelong doing animal liberation. I always feel I do not do enough of this. HHDL said, if you cannot help others, at least do not harm them. So please do not eat live animals. 

Six years ago, what an enjoyable pot luck party. Each volunteer brought their own food and we had BBQ which we prepared ourselves, games and performances. Everyone played a part in the food prep too. 

So many fruits for the monks. With Mama Karen around, there was no shortage of food or fruits. May I be as generous as she was. 

A few NDPs ago, the monks had a fun day experiencing NDP like a typical Singaporean, including taking a MRT ride. 

I'll end with this memorable pic of myself at The Arc @ The Great Ocean Road, Australia. 

Way even before I got into the Dharma path, I had quite a smooth sailing childhood into adulthood. Although my family did not have much, my father paid for this Australia trip, which is probably one of the few family trips we could go together in this life time. 

My father was a loyal clerk who worked for the same bank his entire life. My mom, too was a civil servant all her life, serving the government. They both taught me what loyalty is, whether it is to their job, their company, their friends and to each other. Both of them have known each other since primary school, and have stayed loyal and together for more than 50 years. Perhaps this 'loyalty'  trait has rubbed off on me. 

Maybe one day I'll post my parents' photos from their younger days. The photos are in physical albums and hard copies, so it is quite tedious to scan, sort out and organise everything together. May I be able to do so one day, as an ode to the past, their past. 

As for me, I've had wonderful lovely memories I made all these years of which I've truly no regrets. 

Are you richer than me?

Thought I had share this story about Bill Gates, which makes you ponder the meaning of real richness. 

Someone asked the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, “Is there anyone richer than you in the world ?” Bill Gates replied, “Yes, there is a person who is richer than me.”

He then narrated a story.

“It’s during the time when I wasn’t rich or famous. I was at the New York Airport when I saw a newspaper vendor. I wanted to buy one newspaper but found that I don’t have enough of change. So I left the idea of buying and returned it to the vendor.

I told him of not having the change. The vendor said, “ I am giving you this for free.” On his insistence I took the newspaper.

Coincidentally, after 2–3 months, I landed at the same airport and again I was in short of change for a newspaper. The vendor offered me the newspaper again. I refused and said that I can’t take it for I don’t have a change today too. He said, “You can take it, I am sharing this from my profit, I won’t be at loss.” I took the newspaper.

After 19 years I became famous and known by people. Suddenly I remembered that vendor. I began searching for him and after about 1½ month of searching I found him.

I asked him, “Do you know me?” He said, “Yes, you are Bill Gates.”

I asked him again, “Do you remember once you gave me newspaper for free?”

The vendor said, “Yes, I remember. I gave you twice.”

I said, “I want to repay the help you had offered me that time. Whatever you want in your life, tell me, I shall fulfill it.”

The vendor said, “Sir, don’t you think that by doing so you won’t be able to match my help?”

I asked, “Why?”

He said, “I had helped you when I was a poor newspaper vendor and you are trying to help me now, when you have become the richest man in the world. How can your help match mine ?”

That day I realised that the newspaper vendor is richer than me because he didn’t wait to become rich to help someone.”

People need to understand that the truly rich are those who possess a rich heart rather than lots of money. 

Have a great weekend! 

Friday, 20 September 2019

Spiritual Odyssey

This evening is the opening of Anthony Chua's art exhibition.  Anthony is a Singapore artist as well as  Dharma friend. 

So a group of us went down to lend our support. Here we posed in front of the 'red robes'. Congratulations Anthony!  🎉🎉🎉
Titled 'Spiritual Odyssey', it showcases many bold pieces by Anthony.

Anthony's many art pieces depict stylised ink landscapes of local heritage shop houses. 

This is a more colourful artwork, Singapore River. 

I especially like a piece, titled 'Celestial Palace' (not shown here). There are some others which include abstract compositions inspired by his travels to Tibet and Myanmar. 

Do catch his exhibition if you can. 

20-29 Sept 2019
AC43 Gallery 
Carlton Hotel.

Why I write

Beautifully written by Lang Leav. My exact sentiments. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Going low carb with a twist

I've been on a detox for the past month, with low carb meals. Well, it was almost non carb all the way. I am not knowledgeable about the keto diet, hence I am not saying I'm on a keto diet, but I've been monitoring my carbs and making sure I don't do more than 50 grams of carbs each day (so that the body will turn to burning fats when there is lack of carbs to burn). So far I think it's been progressing great, I've lost about 4 kgs. Yay for small wins! 

Besides obviously slimming down, the other part of motivating myself to stick to the diet is exploring and cooking. I love to cook but don't have much time to cook. So how to keep to low carb meals in Singapore, where all the local food are so addictively deliciously laden with high carbs? For example, char kway teow, nasi padang, hokkien prawn noodles, laksa, kaya toast, roti prata, curry and the list goes on. Almost every dish screams 'HIGH CARBS'! 

I stick to a staple of eggs, bacon avocados in my low carb meals but there are only that many variations I can make them without getting bored sooner. Also I do not like salads which is so easy to put together. I prefer my greens cooked so I usually do a stir fry of my veggies. I also cannot do without my soups. Being Chinese, I love my lotus root soup, bak kut teh (pork bone tea soup), herbal chicken soup.... so I do have lots of soup meals. 

I used to snack before bedtime, like having biscuits, ice cream, cakes or chips. Over the past month, if I felt hungry at night, I would snack on peanuts. Gradually I found that I've lost the urge to snack too and I'm not easily hungry like before. For a treat I'm so happy to have found the brand 'Sugarless'  dark choc with extremely low carbs, no sugar and gluten free. 

I am so thankful I did not have any cravings for the usual hawker fare. It was only a little inconvenient looking for non carb breakfast at the hawker centre in the morning. So I ended cooking breakfast at home and even packed lunch to the office. For dinner I still have my usual dishes at home, just without rice. 

In addition to watching my diet, I've been on a 30-day Chinese medication of detoxing too. So I'm just trying to keep healthy. 

Here are some of my low carb meals. Bon appetit! 

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