Category Archives: Photography

Perfect

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O my faith, my untamed knowledge, how shall I fly to your height and see with man’s larger self pencilled upon the sky? – Out of My Deeper Heart (Kahlil Gibran)

I remembered once, while peering into the viewfinder of my newly acquired camera some years ago, a seasoned photographer gently reminded me that “the difference between painting and photography is the canvas that you begin with. With painting, you start with a blank canvas and you gradually add in your subject. Whereas with photography, you begin with a full canvas, and it is the eye of the photographer which is required to skilfully edit out the subject that is not needed to make the picture meaningful and beautiful”

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

This was during one of those random phases in my mid-20s in which I wanted to try every aspect of art, like throwing pieces of bait into a lake and seeing which one gets hooked first. I was in Petaling Street, and it was a short walking photography course. It was also when I learned that critical difference between a beautiful painting and a beautiful photograph.

Like photography, our understanding is framed within our own experience, coloured by an understanding that is unique across individuals, and almost always never the same between two people. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, the way we view the world is edited. Certain subject are given extra focus, while the rest, and sometimes equally as important subjects are given less emphasis, blurred into the background. We truly see what we really only want to see.

Yet, I believe we stand to miss out on the beauty of life if all we do is to remain perpetually stuck in this ‘editing’ mode. If we are constantly busy removing subjects out of our frame because it is less then what we view as ideal. If we are always kept busy at focusing on one subject, and allowing light to expose the best feature of a single item amongst a sea of equally beautiful subjects. Part of what makes photography exciting I believe, is also the waiting. Time spent in a momentary stillness, watching and observing within the viewfinder until the ‘right’ subject walks in and captured at the perfect time. But what if there is no such thing as a right subject nor a perfect time? That every moment, every frame and every picture stands in its own right, perfect as it is. Because what may be beautiful for you, may be something that I may not be able to appreciate at all. Art is subjective, and elusive. And that is why it can be called beautiful even if it is the most random lashing of spilled paint on a blank canvas.

An artist (who paints!) once said on an interview “art is not meant to be understood, because by trying to understand you confine its meaning within your own experience, interpretations and biasses. Art is to be felt by the heart, and not to be interpreted by the mind”

And so it is, rather than spending so much time editing, creating and moving our life about towards that one perfect, ideal picture, perhaps it is better to go beyond and above this concept, “to fly to the height of your untamed knowledge” and feel the vastness and perfection of life from this perspective instead.

Perfect
You know this has to be
We always were so free

2012 in review – WordPress style

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for Almost Hijau. A BIG thank you goes out to my awesome and amazing blog-friend, Ms. Bianchi of athingirl.com who is also the one who never fails to leave a comment every time I write something.

What a year 2012 has been. To all those responsible for the 1,900 views – stay in tune for more adventures in 2013!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 – A year of adventure and personal triumphs

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2 days before Christmas and one week before the turn of another year. 2012 has been especially generous and kind to me and I wanted to take this time to reflect back on what this year meant and all the achievements accomplished.

1. The Italian Job

Back when we were 12, my best friend, Z and I made a promise when we turned 24 we will go to Cape Town, South Africa as one of those trips you make to celebrate a milestone in your friendship. At 24 we figured we did not have the means nor the resources to go so the trip was postponed for a few years. Finally at the end of 2011, when we decided that it’s finally time the venue was changed to Italy.

For months we planned, and in March we flew into Rome and thus began our 10 days Italian trip termed as “The Italian Job”. It was our first trip together and we covered Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Capri & Florence in that 10 days. We ate loads, walked loads, and had our unforgettable “Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie” moment which involved getting stuck in a 3-pointer turn close to the Prada outlet, pushing a car manually, and waving frantically from the side of the road to flag down for help – all because we didn’t know to get into reverse mode on a manual car on a European car, you’d have to pull the knob up before pulling it back to reverse.

Endless trips of gelatos

Blue sky in Sorrento

THE best meal of my entire life, and just the way to celebrate turning 27

Ah, joy

17 years and going strong – my awesomepossum BFF

2. Vikasa Yoga, Teacher’s Training Course

The trip that altered everything internally and within me. They say to build or break a habit, keep doing something for 21 days. The 1 month spent on the beautiful island of Koh Samui fulfilling a schedule of 6 days a week of yoga, philosophy and self inquiry gave me the amazing gift of a new habit. My morning practice is invaluable to me as it provides me with the time and space to center my thoughts and get in touch with what really matters before I face the crazy rat race each day.

I discovered my love of teaching, that I could combine it with my obsession of healthy food, healthy living and geeky thirst of wanting to know every muscle and every bone in the body. I experienced an unexplainable sensation of joy, incomparable to any kind of happiness I have ever felt that moved me to tears. And most importantly I learned forgiveness is without a doubt, very very possible.

Setting our intentions out into Koh Samui’s skyline

When you are so alike, it’s not hard to bond over a very short period of time

3. The most beautiful, intimate, and amazing wedding to date

When Nan and Indar got engaged late last year, I knew deep down this was a union that will last for a long time to come. Their wedding this year solidified that belief as I became part of their beautiful wedding and watched happiness oozing out of every action, every event, every gesture and word that they uttered. Although I could not attend all of their events, I was especially honored to be able to walk with her into the temple as part of her family entourage. At her reception, I gave my first wedding speech ever and was ultimately relieved and proud that it went down as planned where the audience laughed when I wanted them to – perhaps this could be the moment that began my career as a stand up comedian? Haha ok maybe not..

Still, I had a lot of fun and their marriage re instilled my beliefs that weddings CAN be a fun and a joyful affair.

If happiness can be encapsulated to just one couple, this would be it. Congratulations Nan & Indar!

 

Of course there are other achievements I’ve reached this year in my career which remind me that I can indeed achieve anything that I put my mind to, and perseverance will eventually pay.

Looking back into the past 12 months, these 3 events stood out amongst all the rest precisely for the impact it has on me. It reminded me that God is generous in all His beautiful and mighty ways. Subhanallah

Closing the year off, I will be in Jakarta to visit a dear friend from Vikasa. Indeed this has been a year of travel, a year of adventure, a year filled with self inquiry and revelations of who I am and a year filled with challenges yet a one that is brimful with rewards too.

May 2013 continue in momentum of these positive growth and may it be filled with abundance, joy and love. Happy New Year!

“..and stand together, but not too close together, for the pillars of the temple stands apart”

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Yes, I am still very much alive despite the weeks of hiatus. In the 3 odd weeks that has passed, I had been taken away by the chaos that is life. I spent one weekend teaching yoga classes in a rented community hall just at the lobby of my apartment and saw the biggest turn out in my teaching career so far – 14 people in one session. That, to me was by far the most fun I had teaching yoga so far.

Another weekend was spent running around town, picking up my tailored sarees just in time for the wedding of two dear friends whom I hold close to my heart. It was my first Indian wedding, and possibly the first wedding that I had been genuinely excited to attend and be part of. I got to be part of the family and walk the bride down the ‘aisle’ at her temple wedding and watch the priest that married off her parents, did the same to her and the groom. Way earlier before the whole procession started, I got to shop for my first saree, and had it tailor made to fit. When I realised I had more than one occasion to attend, I made another. I love these two piece of clothing with such novelty, that if I could frame them and hang it for all to see, I would.

I sat in the car with Nan, the bride, minutes before she will walk out of the bridal car, into the temple and officially tie the knot in a Ceylonese tradition. And I can tell you, she is the most chilled-out, relaxed, unfazed and unperturbed bride I have ever seen. Not that I have seen many in my lifetime, but I think there are not many out there who will be able to sing along to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” out loud and still make jokes just before she goes down the aisle.

During their reception, one of her favourite aunt described her as “chillax”, a word that Nan had coined and now has become very much part of her vocabulary.

I got to put my Olympus micro lens to good use as well, and was extremely happy with the result I got. Putting humility aside for a little while, I think I did about as good as a job as their hired photographer 🙂 Nan thinks I should pursue this photography thing seriously, and Z told me “fuck consulting, just go take photographs and teach yoga”.

Earlier in the year, while the both of them were down in town to kick start the wedding planning they had asked if I would give a speech at their reception. To which of course I said, yes! Can I read out loud a poem too? That was in March. On December 1, and 14 days before the reception, I decided that it’s about time I sit down and write out what I plan to say and maybe work on memorizing it too. And memorized it I did, reading it over out loud while alone in my apartment, and over and over again while driving in the car. Practice, in this case, makes perfect sense indeed. After the 5 minute speech, I had random guests coming up to me telling me I did a great job with the speech (phew!) and I especially recalled an old man that I saw from the temple wedding who came up to me and said

“What a wonderful speech you gave tonight. I can tell you, I have been to many many weddings, and your speech takes the prize”

Wow. I have no doubt that he has been to many, many, many weddings before. From this experience I learned, writing a speech straight from the heart is always the best way to go about it because when you eventually say those things out loud, the emotions that go behind each word is effortless and genuine.

I took an excerpt from one of my favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran from a poem he wrote as part of his written work called The Prophet. I decided to do this without having to Google ‘wedding poems’ despite it being (as I had found out much later) a very popular poem to be read at weddings. This was the portion which I read out loud for the beautiful bride and groom –

“…let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you (…)

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”
-Kahlil Gibran On Marriage

 

“Food, glorious food!”

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It is said, to make a new habit stick, do it for 21 days non stop. Whilst I was embarking on my training course as a yoga instructor, we were fed twice daily at Vikasa School. Once during brunch and another at dinner time. The food that was served consisted mainly of brown rice, vegetables – and LOTS of them, with one or two dishes with some fish or prawn during dinner. Accompanying this was fruits and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice.

Needless to say, these meal times has changed my perception towards food preparation and vegetarianism. Sure, there were days when my taste buds wanted a little bit more taste than what we were served, and how it danced with joy when a couple of us went out for some Indian food one night. Overall though, it made me realize that meat is not always required and that I can actually get creative with how I decide to consume my greens.

So, inspired as I was, I spent the first full day back in KL buying groceries and stocking up my kitchen with the healthiest food I know I wouldn’t mind cooking/eating. At the organic store, I found a bag of wild purple rice which curiously looked a little like what we were served in Vikasa (home sick away from home maybe?). The grains turns the water a most amazing shade of purple when you rinse and cook it. I mean, hey, this feels almost like being back in Chemistry class all over again!

At the supermarket, I found myself trolling around the organic fresh produce section. Inspired by some of our mealtimes, when we sometimes had porridge, and sometimes hot vegetable soup, I decided I would make a porridge with vegetable soup as a base with oyster mushroom, some fresh cod, kailan, and purple cabbage. Yum!

Tonight, it’s steamed rice with stir-fry kailan tossed in sesame oil and mushroom omelet. Cooking with purple rice I realised, results in any adjacent kitchen utensils being covered in purple spots wherever the rice cooker decides to spit its steam. Willy Wonka would be proud of my effort tonight. Once everything was scooped onto my plate, I stood back to admire my art and was reminded yet again, of my meal times in the last one month. It almost looks like the meals I had while I was there.

Stir fried kailan, mushroom omelet served with wild purple rice

Excuse the tacky plate. I should really start to invest in one of those classy, all white dinner set. In my recent food adventure, I have discovered the availability of smoked garlic (whole garlic cloves smoked and sold by the kg) and how it absolutely smells D I V I N E and makes everything that it’s cooked in tastes equally as divine. I am already filled with so many crazy ideas of all its different uses in food preparation and the gourmet cook in me is tickled by this idea.

Virginia Woolf once wrote “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. And dined well tonight indeed I have.

A retrospective view – Vikasa Yoga Teacher’s Training Course

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I had thought long and hard about what I had learned from my month away. Coming home, I descended to a feeling of mixed emotions and in certain moments, feeling out of place like I had just been plucked off a place which I had felt complete sense of belonging to a strange place I have always called home.

As soon as I got behind the wheels of my car though, the cogs in the wheel of what I call my life here started to kick back into gear. Amanda tried to teach me how to swim a week ago while we were splashing about in the pool before our evening practice. “It’s just like riding a bike” to which I responded with a blank look and said “I don’t know how to ride a bike”. She said a quiet “oh” and momentarily swam away hoping I’d forget she was supposed to be teaching me how to swim. Haha! But if someone had told me “it’s like driving your car, in the mad city called Kuala Lumpur” then it would probably make a little bit more sense to me.

I thought back to all the conversations I had, the major breakthroughs, and everything else in between. And though I know my words will not do justice to the amazing things I have learned, below are few items which I felt is worth highlighting.

1) Faith in genuine kindness and love

I hadn’t thought of this much until I reached home yesterday, when the first answer that popped to my head as I was thinking of the major takeaways from the course was “it restored my faith in genuine kindness” which ultimately leads to genuine connection as a result. This was something that I had struggled with for a while always doubtful of a person’s genuity and whether there are such things as true strangers who would care to reveal their inner most parts to you in order to stay true and honest with themselves.  Sure, as the weeks go by some people tended to find more common similarities in certain others and began to plan their breaks and day off together. But in general, dinner time was a healthy rotation of people as we sat to nourish ourselves with the food and the meaningful (sometimes hilarious) conversations.

I shared many break times with some individuals from the course, cruising behind their scooters, zooming past Lamai or Chaweng road and made our (almost) daily visits to Tesco. I would sit in Boots while they ate at the food court and “collected” me after they were done. None of them can understand my obsession with Boots. We made trips to the French Bakery, and to the more touristy roads of Chaweng. We shared coconut gelatos, and pizzas and pastas. We walked to the Rabbit Room, a cute little blue glass room 2 minutes away from Vikasa for a glass of iced coffee and lots of conversations. There were a LOT of conversations, most of them deep and arresting. All were meaningful, even the funny ones that ends up in a fit of laughter. These times also taught me that you will see kindness around you, if you are first open to allow it to reveal itself.

2) Pain is weakness leaving the body

This came from Ryan, one of the many people I had connected with and spent some time talking about life, and the world around us. We were talking about the difference we observed in our bodies from Day 1 right up to the Graduation day. I see this in many different perspectives, whether it be physical pain (which only means you are getting stronger) or an emotional pain (which draws attention to a part our lives we might have been neglecting). Obviously, what is meant by physical pain are the kind that is uncomfortable, but not sharp. The kind that is referred to as “creative pain” or “karmic pain” in the yoga world, but never, ever the sharp, nerve like pain which really only ever means you are one step away from the Emergency room.

3) The universe is within me as much as I am within it

As learned from the philosophy module, I was introduced to the concept of energy and that all being consist of a level of energy. Even our souls. It reminds me to always be compassionate, that I am not alone in this quest we called life, and whatever misery or joy that I experience is as much part of me and I am part of it. I was trying to explain this to L during dinner last night, and he looked at me and shook his head and said “this is too deep for me”. So don’t feel alone if you have no idea what I just wrote in the last 3 sentences above! :p

We are one, and all the same

4) Fear is an area worth challenging, and what lies beyond it could be really really beautiful

I grew up with so many fears instilled into me, but to no fault on anybody of course as I am sure it was done with good intentions to protect those whom we love the most. But some fears are unfounded and I rode through it like Nicolas Cage did on his big bad motorbike in Ghostrider (or at least I’d like to metaphorically think of it that way!). Fear of inversions, check to plow, check to an almost there shoulder stand, and check to a baby headstand in progress. Beyond asanas, Tee played a pivotal role to me as he helped me through fear of height (or was it fear of falling between jagged rocks near the sea and no one will find me until the next day?) and taught me how to get to the point where the rock lion sat overlooking into the sea. Possibly THE best spot to be at, undisturbed on the Vikasa ground. He taught me how to float, together with Amanda and how to be comfortable with the sensation of being underwater. And how NOT to freak out when the water gets trapped in my ear canals longer than it should. Lenka taught me to hop around on one leg like I’ve been set on fire to get the water out faster than anything else. Rodney gave me my first lesson on how to sit behind a bike and be a good passenger, without giving the driver in front an unintentional butt massage by gripping on to them too tightly with my thighs.

The rock lion and a camel pose

Bakasana at the most unlikely places

5) Living in a bamboo hut is cute and quaint, maybe for the first 3 weeks.

After the 3 week mark, and many little events which involved a rat crawling around in my hut and knocking over my oatmeal in the middle of the night, listening to my bamboo hut neighbour screaming when another rat decided to pay her hut a visit one night and being woken up to top 40s of the 1990s at 6 am every morning, I finally admitted that I hadn’t been getting the best quality of sleep I should be having. The final week was spent sharing bed space with Chandra, who had so kindly welcomed me into her awesome air conditioned villa and accommodated my teeth-grinding orchestra with humor. I love her to bits for sacrificing her own space in our last week there.

The lady that shared her bed space in our final week together

6) My list of to-do and not to-do as a yoga teacher

This I learned through observing the best of teachers that came through Vikasa’s door and also the limitations that some had in their approach to teaching. I respect and adore Kosta’s and George’s approach to yoga asana and theory. They were warm in their approach, kind, patient and made everything felt like it was possible. This was the definite to-dos for me when I begin to teach too. There were other teachers too that covered specific modules within the course. I learned that, as a teacher, one needs to think carefully before uttering a comment or an opinion especially if it veers towards generalizing a large group of people based on limited exposure to it. To always maintain neutrality, and not instilling education from a defensive stance. And to always watch, watch, watch what comes out of my own mouth even if it means accidentally uttering “go away” to another student to shoo them off the mat.

I will most probably constantly digest and process what I have gone through, and with each of this a new lesson will reveal itself. But for now, these are are what I thought made the effort, time, and money spent on the teacher’s training course absolutely worth it.

Supported headstand in progress

With the cray cray Tee 🙂