Tag Archives: Danang

Nari

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Government warnings of the impending typhoon arrived as early as 2 days before Nari hit the central city of Vietnam. It seems expected. Like this almost annual occurrence of Mother Nature is as normal as day and night.

I remembered how absolutely clear it was that day. Beautiful blue skies, and clouds like brilliant cotton candies scattered low across the horizon. The calm before the storm they say. The days preceding had been wet, filled with angry thunderstorm and brief reports on CNN covering this lesser known part of the world. We were right in the eye of the storm. And it was exactly how science would have described it. While everything around the neighbouring state of Danang was experiencing some sort of torrential thunderstorm, at least in the little office I was given in this NGO to work on my project, it was bright and sunny yet underlined with an eery silence you don’t often experience on such a beautiful day as this. No birds were chirping in the trees. No dogs barking in the streets. Only the incessant beep beeps of motorcyclists in the adjacent street of Le Duan.

By 12 noon the skies began to darken. At 2 we received news from the University officials, of which the French NGO was closely affiliated with, to send all of the students and employees home. A citywide curfew of 6pm was apparently announced across the city. Then it started to rain. And the wind came. It never left, only growing stronger in speed and velocity. The cab which took me back to Novotel, a mere 10 minutes scooter ride on any given day, refused to send me to the entrance of the hotel. Located next to the Han River, I guess any local with a sane mind, would have done the same too.

He dropped me next to the public tennis court, about a block away, muttering between broken English and fast, urgent Vietnamese about ‘road ahead is closed’. I remembered arguing for a minute and realizing my efforts were in vain, paid and stepped out of his cab.

The wind that hit my face reminded me of the time I was in Melbourne in winter time and had accidentally walked through a wind tunnel. I was leaning so far forward just so I could keep walking. A few times, my frame of 46 kilograms kept being pushed back. I was physically experiencing that famous metaphor of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Literally. Between fear of possibly being swept away by this powerful wind, I humored myself with two thoughts, my work laptop is possibly heavy enough to keep me grounded and if I had carried an umbrella, I would’ve probably be Mary Poppins by now having a wonderful aerial view of the entire city of Danang.

That night I experienced Mother Nature wrath in all its glory. The capacity of this Universal energy to summon the entire city into its palms, heaving centuries old roots that has dug its way deep into the earth, and dropping all of humanity onto its knees was astonishing. All within the span of one night.

Before Nari hit at its full force, which apparently came at 4am, I sat down on the floor at the balcony of my hotel room, 10 floors above ground level and within relatively comfortable distance away from the torrential thunderstorm that had already began hours before. It was after dinner. I remembered the sense of awe watching this entire scene unfolding right before my eyes. A sense of being in extremely close proximity with the source of the energy that governs us all. Like I could reach out my hands and almost touch the center of God.

Earlier in the day, many of the locals were relating stories of the last major typhoon that hit their town some years ago. Rooftops being blown off. Electricity cut-offs. Sitting in the darkness. Random objects falling down unexpectedly in the middle of your living room. And that inevitable call of death that some had to answer overnight.

I remembered thinking how small we are as humans against the ultimate strength and energy that moves the earth around the sun, the powerful unseen hands that pulls trees, bridges and rooftops off its place. And how extremely minutiae our human problems are at that moment.

At some point, the hotel bellboys came knocking from door to door to remind guests to keep their balcony doors shut and tightly locked for safety reasons. By then I saw what the locals were trying to tell me earlier. Zinc rooftops dancing in midair as high as where I was standing from. And a perpetual, ongoing shrill wailing of the wind. Like the sound of a grieving mother holding on to her lifeless offspring.

I woke up the next morning to a quiet city. The balcony half flooded with rain water and littered with leaves. I looked down to the crossroad and saw every single tree, save for a few palm trees, uprooted and lying down on its side. Like a playful giant that came visiting overnight and decided to pluck every tree from its roots for fun.

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Life went on pretty much as normal the next day, the only reminder of Nari was the cleanup that city officials were left with in its wake. Someone in the office said they had to stop their motorbike midway while crossing the Dragon bridge because the wind got too strong and they were forced to hold on to the railings for dear life. Someone else said the roof on top of their kitchen got blown off.

And I was left mostly with a deep contemplation of Mother Nature and the power that resides within her.

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..and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart

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Time is rather fascinating, from hours, to months and years – one can’t help but wonder what life would be like without any concept of time? Without any regard of time there will be no such thing as New Years no? But the concept of time, amongst its many other function serves as a tool of reflection, consolidation and integration of experiences into something meaningful. Because man is always out to find and attach meaning to everything that happens to them, Viktor E. Frankl certainly got famous from it, and I am not far behind in agreement.

This year has been nothing short of magical. Cliche I know, but it is one word that I can use with all honesty and still feel that it falls short of encapsulating the essence of 2014. Since it is also the end of my twenties, that “defining decade”, it feels really good to be exactly where I am today, to look back on all the big life decisions I have made to bring me here, and to feel a sense of excitement entering into my thirties.

If there was a word I could use to sum up my entire year it would be blessings. I am infinitely blessed and for this I am endlessly grateful to the Universe and the Higher power that governs it. From the opportunities that came in a steady stream and watching Mind Body Breath grow from strength to strength (with the 2 coolest thing to happen to it was the appearance on TV3 Berita Utama and coverage in Her World magazine), the kindness of strangers, the meeting of beautiful souls and mind blowing connections that transcends all my understanding of what it means to really and truly connect with another person, and ultimately the expansion of a group of people I hold close and dear in my heart.

Delivering a report and having a Vietnamese translator by my side (and discovering that having your presentation translated actually gives you plenty of time to calm that public speaking nerves – woohoo!), appearing on their national news, embarking on this teaching thing full time, sharing my written thoughts with others and seeing on it print, sharing what I love and what I know to others and watching them experience similar benefits and positivity, that maiden trip to India, falling in love with Saraswathi and her energy, discovering the value of parampara, falling head over heels with the entire practice and discovering an entirely new world around it, kick starting a business partnership with a person who is so similar to me in values yet so utterly different in certain worldviews and looking forward to the kind of boundless beauty that will result from this communion.

There were a couple of lessons that became really clear to me which affirms some of my understanding of the world or whatever it was that I may have read from before. I understood the concept of making space by first releasing the things that doesn’t serve you anymore. Magic happens in those spaces. They really do 🙂 I understood every quality that which we love, admire, hate or detest in other people are merely the reflection of the exact same qualities within ourselves, shedding an entirely different light and meaning on my understanding of ‘one-ness’ and the self. And I have also come to understand that the Universe awards you with many, many gifts in different forms and that you would only have to be present and aware when it happens to fully appreciate it. Of the biggest lesson in this though, I have learned that sometimes this gifts are not meant to be kept, sometimes to be let go as immediately as they came, sometimes to not be owned but appreciated as they are, and on other times, to be experienced and then to allow distance from it and to admire it from afar. The challenge that remains for me at least is to learn not to grow attached to any of these wonderful gifts.

Equally as the affirmation occurs, so too did the disintegration of certain beliefs that was accompanied with a lot of questions that was really uncomfortable leading to days of unease and sleeps underlined with meaningless nightmares. I am still questioning a lot of things but I have managed to find comfort in this very uncomfortable process, to make peace with certain things that remains unknown and to embrace fully my ability to question the very foundation of my faith and trusting this entire process in and of itself. Certainly these questions arise from within for the mere purpose of drawing one closer to the self.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
E.E Cummings

Day 1&2: Mysore and Breakfast at Santosha

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I had been planning to make this trip to India for the longest time. It was one of those things I knew I had to do as soon as my TTC in Vikasa was done in 2012. Since I am no longer bound by the rules of corporate annual leaves, the decision to go was made a tad bit easier without having to apply through the necessary approvals. Having dabbled with Ashtanga practice before, and participated in a few Ashtanga related workshops, it felt like a natural inclination to deepen my own practice and knowledge in this type of yoga. Many things, if you begin to pay attention to, happens to prepare you for your next experience. And the sequence to whatever I went through in the last year or so certainly conspired to help me get to this point right now – sitting in an apartment that is 2 minutes walk away from KPJAYI (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) with a whole month ahead of me intended to deepen and progress my own practice in the Primary Series with Saraswathi, who is the daughter to the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

I would be lying to say the journey to finally arrive to this place is smooth sailing. The flight to Bangalore was a night flight, and I am generally a terrible sleeper in planes. That plus the back area of the entire plane felt like an orchestra of snoring people which would have been nice had I known how to appreciate such musical notes escaping from the throats of the passengers.

From Bangalore we made the 3.5 hour car trip down south to the town of Mysore. That was a nice change. It had been raining and the air outside was cool. So I nodded off in between little chats with H, my travel partner who had been here a year before. Once during the ride the driver stopped, and I thought we had arrived only to be told by the driver that he is stopping for a cup of chai as a brief break during the long ride. That was a first, but I certainly didn’t mind.

A lot of what I had encountered so far from the locals and the town itself reminds me of my time in Vietnam. Perhaps it was experiencing the town of Da Nang on my own and immersing myself with the locals there that made it feel like a natural transition into this town. It was a feeling of familiarity like returning to a warm embrace of a very dear friend. The driver who stopped for chai, it could easily be a Vietnamese driver stopping for a cup of drip coffee.

We arrived at 3 in the morning. It felt like a haze in between being woken up, the need to immediately reorientate myself of where I am, and the fact that I had to lug 23 kgs worth of luggage up 2 flight of stairs at such an ungodly hour with an existing injury on my shoulder. I remembered crawling into bed mumbling a sorry to H for not showering because I am just too tired to even think of anything else but sleep.

Monday was spent walking and riding the tuk tuk around town. And paying KPJAYI a visit only to find out registration time for both Saraswathi and Sharath was on that day. Earlier in May, I had the chance to practice a LED class with Saraswathi during one of her trips to KL. I loved her gentle motherly energy and decided soon after to make this trip to study with her for a month. During the application period in early August, I knew generally the differences between practicing with Saraswathi and with her son, Sharath based on my conversations with others but arriving here, it occurred to me each of them attracts their own specific types of students. It is only my first day practicing at the shala today, perhaps drawing my observations now could be a little premature, perhaps at the end of my one month here I would have a different perception, but at least for today this seems to be about right.

I walked out of the shala this morning from what seems to be the shortest and fastest Mysore practice I had ever done before. I saw a group of men and women huddled together next to a van with a man serving fresh coconut. “I saw you here yesterday! HI!” cried one girl to me. That was my initiation into the conversation. I walked over and introduced myself and was invited to Santosha for breakfast. A small house by the corner near to where I am staying. I thought to myself “it will be so easy to never forget my Yamas and Niyamas while I am here given how everything is named”.

It dawned on me this town, the mere fact that KPJAYI is here, attracts a number of people for a multitude of reasons. The searchers. The explorers. The avoiders (or those who are ‘escaping’ from something or someone). The curious. The loyals. The serious and committed practitioners. The new and searching students. There are old timers, people who make their annual visits here. They greet each other like old friends who have been apart for too long. There is a warmth in their encounters, yet a quiet reservation for those who are new.

H told me yesterday that I should come back to my real intentions why I am here as the month progresses, it would be so easy to lose sight of the main purpose she said. Indeed a good exercise to remember, even though the first 2 intentions were crystal clear to me. To deepen my practice with Saraswathi and to (erm..) buy all these cheap books I had been reading about on Amazon India and have them shipped back to KL. Now is a good time as ever to start practicing Aparigraha (non-possessiveness/ non-hoarding) don’t you think? 🙂

Dusting off the cobwebs

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OK so it has been over a year since my last entry. Whoever coined the term “time flies” .. they are NOT kidding at all. A person whom I am currently in business with, and who also has just completed her 200hr TTC at Vikasa commented recently that I should write more often and take this to a different level. It’s not that I have completely given up on writing, if in fact I have started writing in other places and this little corner unfortunately got a little neglected in the process.

A lot has happened and many changes has taken place since May 2013. Wow..May 2013. Just typing that out sends a little shudder down my spine because a year is certainly not a short time. If I had just 3 words to summarize my 16-month long absence from the blogosphere it would be “Everything is perfect”. Perfect in every sense, in every way that it is meant to be as it is today.

September 2013

In September of last year, I fought for (well ok a little, everything seems like a fight when you are in a big corporate setting it seems) and received a life changing international project. It sent me to Vietnam. To the city of Danang to be exact. I had always wanted to work as an external consultant to an NGO on a pro-bono basis. And I had also always wanted to experience what it’s really like to live and work outside of my own country for an extended period of time. Yes – the apt word for that would be as an expatriate.

It was to be the one project which not only allowed me to cross off the last final items off my list that I had wanted to achieve, experience and learn from as a management consultant, it was also the most valuable project that changed my perspective on the environment, my role within this world, my capabilities to achieve an infinite number of things that matter to me and creating real, genuine connections. I ran my first project all by myself, I worked with a number of French people who spoke in French a lot to each other which I’ve come to find addictive as I love the language, even though I can only understand maybe 5% of what was actually spoken, I volunteered to run yoga classes to a group of young Vietnamese adults. I later added 2 words to my limited Vietnamese vocabulary which was the equivalent to “Inhale” and “Exhale” in their language. I learned the power of body language surpasses all language limitations. I experienced my first major typhoon and the power of God that can so easily rip through the entire city in just one night. I was in a town that was on CNN and BBC for the entire week when Typhoon Haiyan was predicted to hit the city directly after it ravaged through Philippines. And I learned what it feels like to be in the path of Mother Nature’s wrath, and be in a place where curfews was put in place to ensure the safety of its people.

Most importantly, I learned that you can experience deep kindness and compassion from your client on your work, and my time there showed me what an immense amount of passion, curiosity, and the desire to help can truly do to ones own career and experience in life. 

Nothing after that, work-wise at least felt the same once I returned back to homebase.

February 2014

So in February of this year, after many sleepless nights, lots of conversations, and discussions of the same thing over and over again, countless hours of contemplation and endless prayers to be guided onto my next path in life, I made the decision to finally leave my corporate job. It was one of the most difficult and scariest decision I had ever had to make. The day I decided to have that conversation with the big people, my mouth went completely dry a full hour before the meeting took place. But once the conversation started, it felt like the most natural thing to do. I told them I wanted to go back to school. Traditional Chinese Medicine. The art of healing had always been close to my heart. So had the idea of taking my yoga teachings on a full time basis. I wanted to do both. I had a plan. Teach yoga full time for 7 months. Then commence school for a 5-year full time study. Some colleagues were amazed and encouraging, but I am pretty sure many more think I’ve gone bonkers instead.

That didn’t mean I danced and skipped my way into the non-corporate life. For a whole week after my last day at work, I woke up with a racing heart, thinking “okayyy, what if I can’t make as much as I did before? What if I can’t feed myself from my work as a full time Yoga Instructor?”

May 2014

Late April, a friend from high school connected me with her friend, a person who owned a yoga studio and was about to open another close to where I live. I was given first dibs into that new studio’s schedule that was opening in May, and asked to teach a few sessions to sub other teachers. I went from a maximum of 3-4 classes in a week to 21 classes a week. 

And though that was good for exposure, I did not anticipate the kind of energy that is required to back up a really intense teaching schedule such as that. I was sick for a short while (I believe the consistent yoga practice helped cut the down time and made it wayyy shorter) and powered through 2 classes pretending to be ok when I was really already running a slight fever by that time. The idea of self-care didn’t quite embedded itself deeply in me until that incident. 

Today

Mind Body Breath, the company which I founded was registered sometime in June. Today there are 2 parts to Mind Body Breath, personal, group and corporate yoga which I am responsible of, and personal fitness training program that my sister is currently running with much success as word of mouth spread. As an older sister, I am so absolutely proud of her.

Mind Body Breath has been featured in Healthworks.my with my articles on yoga. 2 of them were published in a national newspaper. In July, I was interviewed by one of the national news and it aired in earlier this month. A few days ago, I received a call from one of the female lifestyle magazine who wants to feature yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle. A lot of times throughout, I had to stop everything that I was doing for a little while, and breathe through the whole surreality of it.

A few months back, I was accepted as an apprentice with Ninie Ahmad, a yoga instructor whom I had always admired and been to her class before many times. She was mentioned in one of my earlier posts here. That whole experience was amazing. To be surrounded by like minded people, felt like I was back in Vikasa in 2012. A few of us now meet once every week, and talk about everything and anything yoga and the healthy natural lifestyle. Next month, I start teaching at her studio too.

On the business front, I became a partner to a cute and hippie yoga studio that first took me in May. I was actually invited to join 2 others to expand the first studio opened in Damansara Perdana. The studio is known as YogaonethatIwant. And just yesterday, we ran our first official event with Clarins in the newly renovated and expanded studio. I am infinitely blessed. 

One of the things that held me back in the corporate world was the family that I had found in all of the people whom I had shared many projects with. I didn’t want to leave a family behind. But I realised, you don’t ever leave a family once you have become part of it. We still keep in touch regularly. I see a select few on an almost weekly basis. In allowing myself to explore the rest of the world outside of the comforts of what I had come to know as my reality then, I have unknowingly become part of 2 new major families that are different in so many ways, yet alike when it comes to our love of yoga.

In October, I will make my first trip to India and finally dive in a month long Ashtanga practice with Saraswathi in Mysore. India had come to be on my list of places to visit since after Vikasa, to make that trip to the place of origin for all things Yoga. In November, I will be running 2 workshops at a national level Yoga Festival in Kuala Lumpur. 

And so here I am. In writing all of these, it is in no way of me to shout and scream about my achievements. If in fact, it is an exercise which I wish to undertake to allow me to reflect back on how far I have come since my last post here. It is a blessing in and of itself to be able to wake up feeling inherently blessed for everything you have got going on in your life.