May 28, 2018 § Leave a comment
Mum turned a year older over the week. This time, we took her to Bali. But before the celebrations, we spent a couple of days in Ubud and Nusa Lembongan. There is an inner sense of quietness when people spend too long apart and even with devices that allow you to connect. There is nothing more sincere than gently looking at one another eye to eye.
Ubud was filled with hikes and long walks: exploring the padi fields and local community, along with hunting for coffee roasters and nasi goreng. It felt more like home than anything else. Our Airbnb hosts were so kind and generous. Breakfast by the balcony every morning and homemade dinner on the last night.
“I don’t know much. I learn how to cook from my mother.”, she apologies so humbly.
Brown rice, fried tempeh, smoked chicken, stewed chicken, long beans with eggplant and grated coconut salad on banana leaves were just a few dishes to tease us. Astonished by her sincerity, the family made it simply to difficult for us to bid goodbyes.
Heading over to the sunnier shores of the island was a trek. An early wake up call and boat ride across to another smaller island. A paradise spot with local dialects, no shortage of tourists and warungs. We met another traveling couple who became great companions over Bintangs and WeChat. Understanding different languages is one of the greatest asset a human being can ever have. We can communicate by sharing food but no casual banters are complete without bridging two worlds in one language.
In the van to Sanur, it was Bahasa to the driver and Mandarin with the other passages. I am always grateful to be a Malaysian in these scenarios.
I had never snorkel before. Never. A beginner’s luck was nothing short of good fortune. We went swimming with Nemos and his friends plus a supersize giant. Our guide rode us over to Crystal Point, where the waters were almost cold enough to chill a hot custard. He told us to confidently jump in before they swam away. So we did. The Manta Ray is the big soft teddy bears in the ocean. It glide through so gracefully under us with its gills spread as wide as it could. A curious diver took his chance to swim under it. How he must have enjoyed the view from below, is another mystery I shall want to explore.
Canggu, came very quickly.
The little surf town was anything but what it is now. I believed I must have annoyed my family with “This wasn’t here!”, “Last time, there was …”, etc Almost too many déjà vu-s and new experiences. I would have loved the little old place back. Where it wasn’t too crowded with youngsters and broken beer bottles around the coast.
Everything has changed but the softness of the ocean remains the same. It was the same dawn wake up call, meet a surf instructor and riding waves. We were by the beach by sunrise and out of the waters when the crowd arrived.
Board shopping is like choosing clothes. You either pick something suitable for the weather or a generic outfit. You can also choose to blend in with the ocean.
I love being in the ocean, waiting for waves and learning what fits well. No luck in standing up on my own this time, but there is always the next. Don’t we all know, that’s what life is about too?
Try again. Failed again. Failed better, Samuel Beckett
April 20, 2018 § Leave a comment
In the conversations of my daily routines, there is a queer silence between sentences. As gentle as they are, the exists in pauses of acknowledgements and gratitude. I write frequently about gratitude, almost too much when I look back on how many times I type it on this screen. But yet, there will not be sufficient amount to express how fortunate we are and how much we still take for granted.
A couple of weeks ago, my partner ran a full marathon back in Malaysia. So I decided to cheer him on by running, well, a quarter of it. The next 5km mark is a boundary I have yet to explore. The feet took me to Williamstown, a lovely horizon leading towards the endless sea. The beach front was merely the beginning of a buzzing little town. It lined with sun-kissed children, joyful dog-walkers and eager diners. Bring out the roller blades, if I may say, and glide through the bright pavements with ocean breeze in your hair and salty moisture on your skin.
Back at home, in this little apartment, I have been settling in just as bread on butter. It’s been almost 10 weeks of analysing botany, human parts and occasionally wine-ing. Learning about your own palate is perhaps one of the most satisfying adventure to leap on. Acquiring a skill to understand another’s is, something beyond reach. I have a deep admiration for wine connoisseurs as for botanists.
A simple walk in the park was far more complex and enriching than it seems. We visited the gorgeous Royal Botanical Gardens last week. The tropical glasshouse felt like home and memories of being a child running around our home garden came floating in. Right here, the terrain is different. The weather changes so drastically, every moment of beauty is like the freshly bloomed flower, temporary and sacred. The short instances make it so delightful, just as the pauses in my conversations.
The days are getting shorter, my runs are getting longer, but the silences remain unchanged. Always there to keep an everlasting subtle essence in beautiful moments.
February 19, 2018 § 1 Comment
This is your path.
This is how you form the shapes you fall so gently in. This is a journey of how graceful you treat yourself and practice compassion. This is not your mom’s or dad’s. Do not take Forbes list or best yoga poses to be your goal. Do not take an idol and follow their style.
What makes you think you will be happy today with what you have in the future? What makes you believe that other people’s happiness is ideal for you?
Is it for you to take?
Is it meant to be enough?
What is ever enough when less is so much more than what you already stand for?
Your happiness is already in you.
Be the main character in your show. Find your own proses and take the lead.
The last weekend was a quiet one by the beach. I drove myself out to the end of a little town and found the most delightful deli. So I bought myself some hummus, olives and sourdough bread for a little picnic by the sea. As I found myself in an unknown corner, a dog came up and put his weight on my feet. How wet and warm he felt, how loyal and tender he seemed. He was waiting for his owner to finish a surf. Everytime someone would come up to the shore, he would run over and greet them.
“Eventually it will be the right one”, the second surfer said to me.
Every time he realised the surfer wasn’t the owner, he came back to my little towel and waited with me. As they say, misery loves company.
“It’s call Benjo!”, another surfer shouted across to me.
I guess as much he is a regular. The ocean has a way of calling me back. I have been enjoying the waves, cold waters and watching surfers take the plunge. One day, I will too.
Till that day comes, it’s a little memory of finding warmth in nature. An unknown shepherd dog, the abundance of sea herbs, white sands and oceanic sounds.
February 9, 2018 § Leave a comment
Lately, I have been deepening my yoga practice. 11 years of relationship with the mat and somedays, it feels like we just met. It has seen me at my most vulnerable state sometimes when I am weeping or almost on the verge of throwing up after a long night.
“The body is tired, why do you still push it?”, it asked.
Other days, I am as strong as a puma. Zipping from adho mukha svanasana (downward dog) to chaturanga dandasana and head straight to multiple parsvakonasa (side angle poses) for sun-salutation sequences. By the time I step off the mat, I am sweating profusely and feeling vibrant.
Somedays, the mind is so exhausted it can barely allow the limbs to feel connected. Telling my leg to move across from one side to the other is such a chore. How does one part feel so heavy and isolated when everything is so intact? 60 minutes of yin poses later, every part feels united again.
This journey of mine started when I was working as a waitress in a family run cafe. It was small and quaint but the hours were quite brutal yet satisfying. I attended an evening Hatha class that required no pre-experiences with yoga. The breathing techniques and slow movements were the complete opposite to my daily routines. Little did I know then that, it was exactly what I needed. A yin to the yang. I would cancel my social appointments just to attend the classes. My peers could not understand how important it was and I showed no regrets for not meeting up with them. Working in the hospitality industry it was already very hard to keep a social life. Your friends are your customers, the purveyors, the delivery men and perhaps the public transport conductors. Your colleagues become your community.
I left Singapore to England to further my studies, but found myself creeping back into the kitchen. A weekend job at the local fish and chip restaurant to make ends meet. Double shifts during the holidays to juggle out finances but occasional getaway before the term starts. But every evening, I found myself on the mat before dinner time. A half an hour or hour worth of asana by the heater in the winters and with the windows down during the long Indian summer. Reflecting, recuperating, reviving and grounding the soul.
It also was not soon, that I left the academic world and ended up in a culinary school across the North Atlantic Sea. I learnt the fundamentals of chiffonad-ing vegetables and whipping up fresh full cream in a French institution but with American accents. I found a liking for patisserie and most of all, questioned the philosophy of a meal.
What is it to create a meal for others that is so instinctively gratifying?
We all love food, there is no doubt. But why is it that for some of us, we love feeding people? After a whole morning in the kitchen, preparing meals, cleaning counter tops over and over, waiting for orders to come in and receiving a simple gesture of “thumbs up” can be the most fulfilling emotion.
There is unpleasantness in peace. As the only female Asian in a Mexican men filled kitchen, the communication was tough and the jokes were made. The silver lining were staff meals, Mexican cuisine is family oriented. The large amount of fried rice with cumin and tomato sauce, tomatillos salsas, fresh guac and refried beans were often set out in the communal table before service. A reoccurring scene I can narrate and witness in almost every decent restaurant.
There is almost a certain standard of service given when such display of genuine camaraderie is present between staffs. Everyone might get on each others nerves but certainly know how to sit down and share a meal together.
At the end of the day, I would go home and end up on my mat. Recounting the dockets and play out the sequences of putting the dish together; counting my inhales and exhales while following an Ashtanga sequence for 60 minutes. The morning practices are the hardest. They say it is best to practice in the mornings but I just could not deliver my best on the mat. My feet cannot seem to touch the ground. Why are my heels always so distant from earth when 90% of it is always on it?
The discipline and relentless attitudes were brought on my mat. When a chef says 5, you bring out 5, if not 6, just incase one fails on you. When a customer expects a meal within a certain time, you deliver before. The unsympathetic notion I brought upon my work was good, only until.
It was not until years later that I realised, you do not have to deliver your best on the mat. Being on the mat is enough.
Well, did it not just take me a decade to pen that down?
Since last September, I have immersed myself into a different academy. But, as always, it did not take me long to find myself working in an eatery again. Even then, I needed a different challenge. One that is always changing their menu depending on the farmers or fishermen, then handed to the kitchen where the cooks play with ingredients and then to the front.
The front, I have yet to learn how much influence can a dish make with its first impression. How to keep them coming back for more and refining the service. The gratitude is still the same, but it is not from a place where you wait to receive. It is from within yourself that you find recognition and thus, giving it to others.
My one concern is to improve the quality of your conscious awareness and your ability to exert control over it under worldly conditions. All else is confusion and meaningless gabble. When the system, dogma and language blots out the light, some energy has to be found to let it in again. Dwell in this light and share it with those capable of receiving it. Whether you call it peace love or self-control is immaterial.
There is only one light.
January 30, 2018 § Leave a comment
The last weekend was well spent with six other beautiful women at St Andrews Beach, Mornington Peninsula. They held a yoga retreat which included soul searching workshops. The space was filled with abundant authenticity and gratification. Everyone had personal stories of mistaken love, different career directions, family cooking adventures and wonderful unique life experiences. It is not only truly inspiring to hear them but also deeply privilege to be part of the circle.
We soaked up plenty of sunshine while exploring our truest desires. We hold visions of what is yet to be and expectations, but have we ever sat down with ourselves with a cup of tea/coffee truthfully to ask how do we feel when these expectations are met.
So many of our dreams or aspirations are unrealistic because we do not take the opportunity to ask ourselves what they resonate with us. Feeling loved or connected with another soul by attracting something that is not your truest heart’s desire; accomplishing something that is perhaps not best for what you can offer mentally, physically or emotionally right this moment; believing in shaping your form to be better but not having the right tools.
This retreat was a realignment of past/present/future. Putting past experiences into present moments and manifesting from here on.
This morning I sank my teeth into a thick stack of sorghum pancakes with soy yogurt, molasses and fresh berries while reflecting on the year that is to be. More surfing, making fresh meals, writing and making this apartment a home.
We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home.” – Australian aboriginal proverb
Retreat was organised by these two talented ladies:
January 13, 2018 § Leave a comment
It is funny how after some time, it isn’t about the pose, it’s about the breath you take in and how you release it. It is the way you show up on the mat everyday that inherently, dedicating an hour to reconnect the mind/body/soul. It is how the pose is formed and transits to another.
It is funny how after a while, it isn’t how the dish is served but the freshness of the ingredients and how they arrived at your table. The sincerity of the purveyors, honest cooks and warm servers.
It is funny how it isn’t the type of clothes we wear but how it softly fits onto our skin and makes us feel naturally comfortable . It isn’t about dress sense but the sincerity of our smile we put on every time we greet someone.
It is funny how it isn’t about the amount of friends you have but the depth of friendships. How far you are willing to stretch for one another and how often they appear in your daily thoughts. The moments you shared laughing at one another’s stupidity, putting up with the idiosyncrasies and still want to share a meal together.
It is funny how it isn’t about the places you have been but how you get there. As cliche as this sounds, it is amusing that there are still tourist spots and selfie sticks.
It is funny how as a plant based eater (some call me rabbit, goat or bird), I know how to eight way a chicken, gut and scale a fish or touch raw meat; yet find meat eaters who squinch into a ball when they see a pig’s head or bone in meal. It is also rather peculiar that they do not know the shape of an oyster in poultry or where the vein of the prawns are.
It is strange and awesome at the same time. We are all looking for the same sense of belonging and meaning on this earth but our paths are far from near.
It is remarkable that you can feel so much for someone and yet so little in an instance. It isn’t the words we say but the promises we keep to ourselves for others, which makes the relationship genuine. The call you were supposed to make, the letter you were going to sent, the cup of coffee you meant to share and the little projects we set out to do.
It is peculiar that we meet at the same spot again and again. We are drawn to the likeness of sensibility and charm in the space. In time, our encounters are brief but special. Yet there is all there is.
We took a trip to the Great Ocean Road today. It was pouring very heavily and the little fella felt scared. So he rested his chin on my lap the whole way until we got home. I sneaked into McGran’s Cafe to take away a lovely slice of tahini cake. The rain has a way of showing up when it is least needed but beneath the thick dark clouds there is warmth in being good company and a sincere slice of cake.
January 8, 2018 § Leave a comment
Your experience will be solely yours. No one else sees or feels what you deeply observe, encounter and soak the soul in. By that I also mean we get to choose who and what we karmically interact with. Sometimes we do not realise that there is a reason behind the daily habits. How we brush our teeth, choose to hold a fork or chopsticks, turn the door knob a certain way. Perhaps even with the certain people we communicate. Do we greet them a kindly, joyfully or quietly. What brings that particular emotion when something inside is triggered.
I chose living mindfully since a tender age. Though it might appeared that some hard experiences were much intended than unconsciously, there has always been a certain light inside the heart that lead to where I am now.
Now, is the moment we should all live in. I do realise more and more that people living in the fast pace world tend to sweep away my questions or curiosity as they would, sweep away awareness. Everything goes under the rug. Ironically, so does being authentic.
What is your sankalpa?, as most yoga instructors will ask at the beginning of the practice. Is it simply to let go? To feel warmth? To be here? How is your heart doing?
These days, my intentions have been to with the soul. The mind has been drifting off to the past year and resulted in drawing memories of encounters. These growing moments were like pain growing sprouts, reminders of lessons and staying true. So much had happened. So much have yet, to happen.
You have waited to be loved. Love every corners there is inside right this moment. All that is needed is encapsulated in the tender heart.
New Year’s Eve countdown was much spectacular as it was spent luxuriously by Sydney Harbour. The days along were so blessed I started to wonder what have I done to deserve this. “Take it all in my dear”, that is all she said to me.
Back to my favourite part of the city, practicing yoga, reading/writing and more cooking. Nectarines from the tree right in front of the lovely apartment.