Thursday, 5 April 2018

So Live

Keanu Reeves writes.. "My friend's mom has eaten healthy all her life. Never ever consumed alcohol or any "bad" food, exercised every day, very limber, very active, took all supplements suggested by her doctor, never went in the sun without sunscreen and when she did it was for as short a period as possible- so pretty much she protected her health with the utmost that anyone could. She is now 76 and has skin cancer, bone marrow cancer and extreme osteoporosis.

"My friend's father eats bacon on top of bacon, butter on top of butter, fat on top of fat, never and I mean never exercised, was out in the sun burnt to a crisp every summer, he basically took the approach to live life to his fullest and not as others suggest. He is 81 and the doctors says his health is that of a young person.
People you cannot hide from your poison. It's out there and it will find you so in the words of my friend's still living mother: " if I would have known my life would end this way I would have lived it more to the fullest enjoying everything I was told not to!

None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else."

Monday, 2 April 2018

How To Grieve

A friend's mother passed away while I was airborne, on my way to Vegas via London. There was nothing I could do for her, but send her my condolences and express sympathy via Whatsapp. I wandered through Heathrow trying to find something that would put a smile on her face...well, I found the orange blossom candle from Jo Malone that is referenced in The Happiness Project...and some magazines. She loves British magazines.

So I came back and saw her - she looked absolutely shattered and her bones stuck out through her clothes, having lost so much weight when her mother was ailing and slowly dying.

That's how it gets you - the dying. And then the guilt hits, telling you, you could have done so much more, you could have prolonged her life if you had done this or that.

But would you want to?

I was thinking today, if our approach to death was to speed someone towards the light, their eternal home, rather than trying to hold them back in this place of suffering and darkness and despair, how would we approach funerals?

I am reading Buddha Standard Time by Lama Surya Das now, and I found the following about dealing with grief. In The Bright Side tradition, I thought I would share it.

1. FACE THE LOSS: Be aware rather than in denial. Do not avoid the pain, fear, anger, anxiety, regret, anguish, despondency, or whatever other emotions you feel. Remember: awareness is curative. Let the light in, and you will find your way.

2. GO THROUGH THE HEALTHY, NECESSARY STAGES OF GRIEVING: These usually  include some permutation of the following (1) shock, denial; (2) pain, anguish, anger; (3) bargaining, negotiating; (4) sadness, despair, hopelessness; and (5) gradual letting go and eventual acceptance. Remember: your path is unique; in whatever order or form it occurs, there is an authenticity and emotional validity to your own natural process and pace of suffering and acceptance. Give it time. Don't rush the grieving process. But don't prolong it unnecessarily, either. Find a Middle Way.

3. REMEMBER THAT THIS TOO SHALL PASS: Understand the impermanent, tenuous, dreamlike nature of things, and decide the Buddhist mantra: this too shall pass.

4.  LEARN THE LESSONS: Recognise how things come about (cause and effect, or karma), and learn to steer a clearer course in the future. examine your own beliefs and assumptions about the painful situation, its meaning for you, and its past and future implications. Remember: the guiding principle is to start wherever you are, with awareness and patience, and then seek understanding.

5. PRACTICE PATIENT FORBEARANCE: One of the Buddhist principles on the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment is to develop inner strength, fortitude, resilience, tolerance and the long-term view.

6. BREATHE IN AND OUT:  Feel the pain, come to know it through examination and equanimity, and then release it. Remember: awareness is the key. Stay attentive, conscious and intentionally awake - no sleep walking through the difficult aspects of life.

7. EMPATHY AND COMPASSION:  Let the experience of pain and suffering leave you feeling tender, vulnerable and sensitive. Notice that others, too, are going through similar anguish, just as you have, and express empathy and compassionate kinship with them and their suffering. Remember: brokenheartedness can become openheartedness. Suffering is the greatest precipitate for spiritual change, inner growth, and transformation, and everyone experiences it at one time or another.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A Little Kindness

When someone around you is in distress and it lies in your means to alleviate it, even if that person has nothing to do with you, would you do it? Or would you turn away, saying it has nothing to do with you?

I think a lot of the suffering in the world comes about because we turn away when we could do something. When someone confides in us or brings a problem to our attention and we choose to look the other way.

A young boy who used to work at a supermarket I go to, was back at his job. He was happy to see me, and spent some time telling me how he came to be back there. He was broke. He talked about buying a 10kg sack of rice and a carton of eggs he could boil to last him till the end of the month, once rent and his plane ticket to Sarawak was covered. He hoped that his salary, which would be credited in over the next few days would be a certain amount so he could survive. Otherwise, he didn't know what he could do.

He has family. A sister who doesn't answer his calls. Who is happy to leave him to starve, if need be. I have no idea why. He has a brother. In the US. Who, when he comes, displays largesse but who, when he's absent, is absent.

He wasn't asking for anything from me. He recounted all this cheerfully, rolling his eyes at various parts of his story, but I felt a tug in my centre. He had so little. He talked about his new salary like it was a lot. And I thought - oh dear, I would never be able to survive on that.

The encounter troubled me and when I attended the Easter Vigil that night, it was playing on my mind. 

To give him enough to tide him over, whatever his boss decided to pay him for the half-month, would not affect me in the slightest. I could afford to, no problem. But it would make a world of difference to him - this young boy, living on the fringes, barely able to support himself, barely able to eat. But how would I give it to him? 

An angpow?

No. An Easter card. It is Easter after all. And he is Christian. I could give him enough to buy the ticket at least. Then, whatever money was credited into his account for his half month of work could be used for his food and lodging. 

So I went and sought him out today. Gave him the card. He opened it then and there and was almost in tears. He said - I shouldn't have done it. Not even his sister would do it. And me, a stranger. I felt awkward and tried to brush away his thanks. I didn't know how to deal with it. Or his teary eyes.

No, I don't care if he conned me. I don't think he did, but if he did, it doesn't matter. It is true, he has so little. And I have so much. If I can rescue strays and feed them like kings, I can do something for stray human beings as well.

While at the supermarket I bought the fixings for triple chocolate muffins. I shall bake them, and enjoy them now...and wish everyone a Happy Easter.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Week 52: Complete Multiple Acts of Service

As a final exercise, I offer you this one, designed to have you mindfully engage in multiple acts of service this week. Start this right away and make it a serious practice throughout the week. These do not have to be big at all.

By now, I hope you see that opportunities to do something kind, nice, generous and thoughtful are readily available to us. Complete some for family, for friends, for strangers. Perform them spontaneously and plan some in advance.

The key thing here, the absolutely most important thing, is that you perform these acts for the reward you get doing them, not as a down payment on future favors you expect to be performed for you.

As a final journal exercise, go back and read your entire journal with a highlighter pen in hand. Highlight the actions, thoughts, and expressions that stand out for you now. Review these regularly in the next 52 weeks, and for each 52 weeks that follow.

Sunday, 3 January 2016


It's the third day of the New Year and the first day I am updating this blog. Well, my year of updating every day is over. But I do want to write in this from time to time, to check in and tell y'all how I'm doing.

Today in the car, driving to pick up the cleaners and deposit them at my father's I had a revelation about certain resentments I had been harbouring. I realise that I have tunnel vision and when I'm feeling badly used, I forget or choose to ignore all the nice things those same people did for me. 

Anyway, today I woke up in time to take the dogs for a walk (or in the case of Sylvie and Stella, a run). So got some morning exercise, the dogs got some morning exercise...and I was in time to pick up Rose and Jane for once (rather than keeping them waiting; once I kept them waiting so long that Jane got a migraine).

So this year, I look at my bookshelf and despair. I have bought so many books because they were "good" and at some point I wanted to read them...this year I think I'll set myself targets for what to read during a particular month.

In the month of January for instance, I plan to read Joan Didion's White Album (I'm halfway through now), Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, Milan Kundera's Art of the Novel, the biography of Flaubert (I have three biographies on hand - one on Flaubert, one on EF Schumacher and one on Charlotte Bronte - I do so want to know if she tried to have an affair with her French professor). I realise that my whole list consists of non-fiction. And I love fiction. Let's see...Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find. So there, that's my list. And as I complete them, I will write about the books here. And anything else I want to accomplish this year.

The kittens are creating a racket - they're hyper in the morning because I am here to watch them. I think they perform "naughty kitties" for my benefit. I need to clean up their litter. This morning I was careless, and Elliott ate their food up.

I need to give Elliott a bath, and spray the other two with Frontline. We are waging a war against ticks. They seem to have broken out with a glory suited for better things. 

I posted off four letters today. Because yesterday was quite a productive day; four letters written, cancelled my Maxis broadband (I had upgraded to Maxis fibre months ago, and continued to pay for both because I was too lazy to cancel my broadband - but I will get one last bill from them), bought a box of mineral water (yippee! I feel rich when I have lots of drinking water on-site), made address tags for my letters (finally!), bought some pens (of course), some broccoli (I am feeding the dogs vegetables along with their meat these days; which reminds me, I have to take their food out of the freezer to defrost).

So you can's off to a busy start.

I am glad that Rose and Jane are coming to clean this place today. It is in sore need of it.