Tag Archives: Education

..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
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The cold-pressed juice wagon

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It is a fad that was already slowly and quietly bubbling under the surface of general consumerism in Malaysia. If ‘bootylicious’ made it as one of the most used word that awarded it self-deserved place in the Oxford dictionary, ‘cold-pressed juice’ I believe should be somewhere in the list of most-used, most-marketed word and product of the year 2014. Probably not a place to be reinvented in the Oxford dictionary though, because the 2 words exist in its own right with its on standalone meaning but hey, when you place it together – what a wave it has resulted in! Obviously it didn’t just came about overnight as some would attest to the larger cold-pressed juicing companies that existed in the market as early as 2009 and 2010. Back in the days when a Hurom is not just a car-ride and a AEON supermarket visit away.

While I am all for efforts and advocacy made towards a healthier nation through easier and more widespread access of healthy food, the uprising of this trend is also somewhat disturbing. The fact that anyone with a decent income can own an equally decent cold-pressed juicer is great, what is not so great however is the fact that these days it seems anyone with a decent cold-pressed juicer also thinks they can become champions of the power of juicing by selling their own versions of cold-pressed juices bottled in glass jars.

Yes, I totally understand the idea of capitalising on market opportunities. It is all economics right? The general public now have more access to information on the internet. They can’t be as easily duped by a full page spread in the newspaper telling them that a carton of Tropicana Orange Juice (with REAL orange pulp added!) is any where as superior as a smaller sized fresh, cold-pressed juices that comes in a BPA-free plastic bottle or even better a shiny glass bottle. People want fresh. People want wholesome, raw, active juices. Because cold-pressed juices promises vitality, health, rejuvenation and a bang for your buck. Yes it costs WAY more than that carton of orange juice, but if it’s suppose to cure ailments, make you feel better, wipe out your wrinkles and make you look 10 years younger, spending double and sometimes triple the price of a conventional juice becomes an easy afterthought.

If there is supplies to match market demand, and this is a demand that is pointing towards a change for the better than it is well and good isn’t it? Not so.

Here’s a scenario. One day you woke up and decided to pay a visit to your doctors. Annual health examination. A few days later the results came back and your doctor delivers you the grim news that you had better get your blood sugar level under control because your reading awards you a comfortable place within the ‘pre-diabetic’ category. Or perhaps, more likely these days, the doctor circles a random number on the result paper and tells you that you should watch your cholesterol because by god, those hash browns and McValue meals aren’t really adding much valuable nutrition to your body but rather accelerating your path to the nearest cardiac surgeon office.

So while you are driving home, all these numbers and facts circling in your head and a real concern that something has got to change, your food intake or your physical fitness or your entire approach to life, and you get hungry. But no, there can be no more McValue meals for you, and someone told you recently a juice-detox is a great way to kick start this new resolution for a healthier lifestyle. So you stop at the closest available cafe that you know sells great cold-pressed juices. Along the counter sits many many beautiful, delectable sounding cakes. Cakes, that without a doubt contains an eye-popping amount of butter (even worse, margarine!) and a truckload of white sugar. What happens next? There is a possibility that your better judgement kicks in, you pay for your juice and off you go. But there is also that equal amount of possibility that the ‘naughty’ side of you will try to justify by thinking “If cake is bad and juice is good and I take both at the same time, the good will neutralize the bad right??”

The human mind will always find novel ways to justify anything that it wants. And before you know it, oh the poor consumer who thinks he’s doing good by drinking all that juice everyday and sometimes rewarding himself with that cake is referred to the endocrinologist office instead because his blood sugar level is soaring and his body has decided that it is much too taxing to be processing ALL that sugar coming from both the cold-pressed juice and the cake.

What disturbs me is not the fact that this health trend is picking up traction but in the way that cold-pressed juices are being marketed by the people who are advocating its benefits. Would you go to a doctor who is sick? Probably not. But many of our doctors are overweight, smokes a pack a day and battling their own health issues. The reason you still visit them is because you don’t know what goes on in their personal lives. But what if it is all out there for you to see? What if “buy our cold-pressed juices” photos is posted on instagram next to a bowl of Magee mee? Or photos of people enjoying a plate of KFC with the tagline “buy our family bucket and get 6 bottles of cold-pressed juices free!” would you still be willing to pay the same premium? Probably not. Which is good for the consumer and their wallets, but it does nothing to educate them about the healing power of food.

So here’s the deal, drinking a bottle of premium cold pressed juice to wash down that butter cake/magee mee/[insert food that contains high cholesterol, preservatives, sugar and other unnatural products disguised as food] won’t make you any healthier than the next person who decides to wash it down with a Vitagen or a conventional carton juice or even a can of Diet Coke. It does however, make that next person slightly more richer than you though. That I am pretty sure of.

So before you buy, discriminate. Question. Most importantly on the ingredient, the freshness, and the cleanliness. Was the vegetables and fruits washed properly before being juiced? If it uses orange and lemon rind, was it organic (because lord knows how much wax covers the standard, non organic version and can you imagine ingesting them in that RM15 ringgit bottle of juice?) and of course there is also the question of “Is the lifestyle of the person whose business you are supporting the same that you would buy into?” Not as important as the initial questions, but remember, what you buy also supports the lifestyle of its makers.

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? 🙂