Thursday, June 30, 2011

even tripping up is grace.

no two meditations are the same. this much i know. but i don't know it can be this dramatic from one day to the next. yesterday was all sweet peace. here's how this morning goes. in the beginning it all seems to go as i have been doing the action sequence day in and day out. look. i get up, have my drink of chlorophyll, aloe, a little apple juice and psyllium, poop, - i cannot overstate what a huge difference pooping before meditation makes to the quality of meditation, but i'd better get back to the real drama of the day before i get carried away with pooping - where am i? o, right, then i wash the mouth and teeth and face. some gentle stretches. bow to four directions. bow to my meditation seat. so far, nothing is off track. yet somewhere around i put the earplugs and eyewraps in place i begin to sense something is off within. a little bit. very subtle. it's like the camera lens is slightly, very slightly, out of focus. so slightly that i just dismiss it.

i proceed to rigorously rub my hands to give a little tai chi bath to the eyes, face, head, neck and chest. as i am about to begin reciting 'a thousand mirrors,' the poem that i have been letting off my lips daily for one and a half years i hear a tiny whisper. you'll trip. i thought i knew what it meant. i'll trip over the poem 'breakthrough' which i am about halfway through memorizing. but as i type this now i realize that is the beginning of me getting out of the present moment. the onset of getting off center.

anyway words stream out of me swimmingly. in another corner of the mind the worry that i'll forget some part of 'breakthrough' loops like a stuck record. not loud. but enough to suck my attention out of the present moment. until suddenly i realize words stop flowing out of the vocal cord like a river's flow is obstructed by an unexpected boulder. my attention goes into shock. panic jams awareness. disbelief shakes up the mind. thought waves strike. negative thoughts. heavy thoughts. this can't be. it's impossible. so i try to gather myself, squeeze the scattered attention into the line. 'the reality of my existence' what is the word after 'is?' nothing comes. the brain jumps up and down and all around inside the skull. banggg. wangg. nothing comes. after a while and i don't know how long in terms of the linear passing of time i drag myself to the next verse. obviously i am still not totally in the present. because after 'each mirror was broken into thousands of fragments' i go right back to 'the reality of my existence is...' i struggle some more and go nowhere but round and round like a scared mouse. meanwhile negative emotions take this opportunity and make their appearance. discouraged is the main one. and exasperated too. i won't go into their extended family.

i begin to notice the breath is out of whack. so i do the only thing i know how to do in such dire circumstance. i turn attention to the breath. in a few rounds i watch the edginess in the breathing movement smooth out. then i hear this. relax. i take a deep breath in, a long breath out. a couple of more rounds later, conviction arises from deep within. i can't recall whether it comes with the inbreath or the outbreath. doesn't matter. they all come from the same place. anyway the message i get is this. i haven't forgotten the poem. really, i haven't. why would i even doubt that. scrap it.

with that i see what i need to do. move on to the next verse. and so i do. as i let the rest of 'a thousand mirrors' flow out of me i feel a refreshed, renewed resonance. 'destruction took its time. while grace was penetrating deeply i said to myself, people say grace is a shelter, why, then, am i losing all i have?'
indeed. 'all the reflections are grace. all the mirrors are grace. grace had revealed that everything is grace.' yes, even tripping up like this is grace.

as i step off the meditation mat i hear the inner self say, write with one voice.  'the power of grace takes me across,' ain't it the truth. ain't it the truth.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

lord buddha food. chewing on my style.

i get this insight when i am making sweet rice. by the way, this dish of rice and milk brings to mind the scene where siddhartha is under the bodhi tree and realizes the truth. along comes sujata, a woman. she offers him rice and milk. he takes it. now is it because he realizes that torturing and depriving the body doesn't bring him closer to the truth? or he recognizes that he needs a body of strength in order to teach the truth to many? i don't care. all that matters is lord buddha as we know it, the teacher, is born. with this memory i just fall in love with this dish. milk. rice. just the sounds carry the vibe of calm and nourishment. besides it is super yum. more than yum. it is light and satisfying, a one pot meal for the season. i can see myself eating it breakfast, lunch and supper. so there i am stirring basmati rice in a little ghee, plenty of freshly ground cardamom and some milk. whole, not low fat or no fat. according to ayurveda, i need lubrication, meaning oil, to balance the dry heat of the season. besides, serious meditators do need a little bit of fat everyday. the key word here is 'little bit' and it has to be quality oil. ghee is the best. i think i am way off track here. where am i going? o, that's right, i have an insight. the thing is i have been chewing on something my editor says, now it reads like two separate books, one in the immortals world, one in the human world, you've got to make it one book. gee. what does that mean? i thought i worked so hard to bring the two together. meanwhile time goes by. cut to the learned brahmin. he says to me, what you say, don't change, the style, change. by the way i really resonate with his english. we hong kong chinese speak english kind of like that. especially cantonese chinese. which i am.

i digress. hmmm, yes, style. now this is really fascinating. the recurring thought that has been haunting me is this. what's wrong with my style? i don't get it. not yet. until this morning. i am meditating away. the breath is flowing in deep and long, refined like a lotus stalk. i watch thought waves ebb and flow. suddenly and quietly this appears. one is lyrical and sublime, the other is down-to-earth and funny. i have to confess. the urge to go with this and pile on more thoughts is huge. i barely manage to jot the key words down when another insight comes. there's nothing wrong with your style. now, isn't it something that the mind would default to the habitual tendency that something is wrong with me. something is wrong with my style. nothing's wrong with my style. but i do have to work the 'voice' to a certain way so it can be sublime, lyrical, down-to-earth and funny, all of those.

gee, i can already hear the thought shooting straight out of the state of poverty consciousness. this is so difficult.

to be continued.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

deeeliish rose water

again, without any mental pushing, meditated two hours. actually the last half hour is for coming out of meditation. kind of like the trip after summiting a peak. as important as the climbing up part. at times i watch my body and mind and breathing movement simply in awe. evidently an invisible power that is out of my conscious control is at work here. i didn't even think of meditating two hours. in fact i was telling myself, one hour is okay, suk wah. but then when the beeps of timer seep into hearing through the earplugs it is clear that the body is still comfortably immersed in this stable, upright and strong posture. i scan around within. there is not an iota of urge to move any fiber or ligament. the limbs are pulsating a lively hum. the tempo is powerful and lyrical all at once. every cell is just fine where it is.

i ponder what has made this miracle possible? of course i understand all the efforts i have been putting in count. but what is the, shall i say, 'last straw on the camel's back' but in a fantastic way?' what pushes the scale to this off the chart way? not missing a beat an inner message appears quietly and tenderly. yummy rose water. i get it. what is happening is a couple of days ago i had the great good fortune to receive an abundance of knowledge about what and how to eat in accordance with the ancient ayurvedic principles in summer season. that night i started making this deeliiiish rose water with roses from my own backyard. yesterday i throw out the old grocery list, make out a new one and stock up on all that are hydrating, moisturizing, oily - as in avocado, not fry food -, sweet and cooling. sublime creations like roses have powers that uplift the body and mind. appreciating a rose's beauty is acknowledging the light of the self within it.

i've always loved my roses. now i love them even more.

Monday, June 27, 2011


don't want to come out of meditation. seriously. this is my meditation experience of the day. the body and mind, particularly the body, are immersed in this sweet and pure peace that hums with vibrancy. today the legs have hit the sweet spot. they don't go numb on me like they usually do after forty-five minutes or so. and the breath. o me o my. the breath. i really have the experience my conscious efforts have nothing to do with the ever deepening of the inbreaths and lengthening of the outbreaths. as i type this sentence i can feel this subtle shift in the breathing movement like a master noodle maker deftly pulling the dough between his skillful hands. i am mesmerized. this inner self of mine is truly the breath-in-chief.

back to this morning's meditation. while i am reciting the poems 'a thousand mirrors' and 'breakthrough' i notice, for several times, i emerge from a place beyond words, where there is no sense of time. but i don't catch myself pausing amidst recitation. yet i simply know where to pick up from where i left. the words just arise from this quiet place within. this quiet, fascinating place, my own self.

just like that, two hours have flown by when i step off the meditation mat.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

direct motion. not retro.

this chart is good chart, the learned brahmin examines my stars and planets, but...i knew there's a 'but' coming...but one thing is that many times negative thoughts come in your mind, and that's why restlessness. his heavy indian accent - d and t are pounding drum beats - hits the message home hard. since then i've been pondering my life thus far like super duper fast forwarding a movie. i have had one opportunity after another. fantastic opportunity. i have had the great good fortune of meeting phenomenal people in both work and personal arenas. beautiful people. off the charts talented people. fun people. they embrace me, take me under their wings with generosity and kindness beyond measure. what do i do? i watch pangs of pain as i type this. i push them away. again and again. all because of what? negative thoughts that poison my mind. i remember at one point a girl friend who treats me like her own sister sits on a stair step and breaks into tears and says, we are friends, why are we like this? really. this is a strikingly handsome lady from a distinguished lineage, capable, knows everybody in hong kong, has a big and golden heart, and loves me. what do i feel in that moment? gee, i am so disconnected, so shut down, no words come to the stubborn and stuck mind.

why am i allowing the memory to roll like this? is it remorse? am i thinking, o i should have, if only i did it no. no. because i want to cut the pattern. i want to be in direct motion. not retrograde. i know, mars in direct retro right now. i have no clue what mars in retro means but the idea somehow resonates with me. i want to be in direct motion, not going backwards. negative thoughts foment restlessness. and that drags me away from clear thinking, from being immersed in my own true nature.

Friday, June 24, 2011

an auspicious, joyous happy birthday

what do i feel on the birthday of someone who gives me the experience of my own true nature, shows me how to know it, live it? i feel so happy, so fortunate. she wants the highest for me and nothing from me. well, not exactly. she does want something from me. all that restrain me from becoming and being who i really am. a full and unique expression of the innermost self which is no different from the universal self that creates this ever evolving physical universe.

grateful seekers offer birthday gifts. fruits, jewelries. beautiful things. valuable things. she receive them all with equal thankfulness. in another instant she freely gives them all away. she loves me unconditionally. no strings attached. no attachment either. all she wants is for me to be this happy, strong, courageous and generous person.

one time, over chai, i lament, how can i please my guru? a thoughtful yogi and dear friend and amazing nurse says, do the practices, live the teachings, that's how you please your guru. and so on this auspicious day, joyous day i wish happy birthday to my guru who lives in my pure awareness. she loves me. i love her. this love is pure. this love is divine. it is this love that connects us forever. in the present moment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

what is stopping me from whittling away at it?

this morning's meditation is bright, awake. after getting out of bed it comes to me to go into the yard for a little bit. a little bit. that's very clear. so i do. i water the roses. our eight roses are splendid and forgiving. they are so happy just to get a little bit moisturized while sending up these gorgeous, fragrant beauties even though i've been holding back on watering because of water department recommendation. anyway i have a pattern of going into the yard and getting carried away not realizing i am exhausting myself, often to the point of hurting the body. where am i? o yes, so i meditate after half an hour in the yard. that in itself takes all the spiritual will i have accumulated. i can feel the pull to stay longer. i can hear the figs, bamboos are saying, good morning, so nice to see you. but, really, my point is somehow this unscheduled activity imbues my meditation with brightness and alertness that are marinated with intoxicating sweetness. i watch the inbreath deepening naturally, the outbreath lengthening. i respectfully hold attention on the space where the outbreaths dissolve into like foam into ocean. the sense of satisfaction is beyond measure. the closes approximation i can come up with is this. lying on the silky, milky sand on the fiji island where the movie that brooke shield stars in when she is sixteen, drop dead gorgeous. sparkling and gentle waves wash the body in these massage moves that smoothe out whatever tensions lodged within fibres and tissues. the mind that is conditioned to get satisfaction from things external can't really wrap around this. it's all right. i don't feel the urge to explain it. i just watch the mind go vibrantly still. i know i am washed clean by the source of potentiality from whence the physical universe and stars, planets and galaxies spring.

so there i am reveling in this wonder all within my own being when some long-buried memory makes its appearance. it comes with embarrassment and shame. probably i have consciously shoved it into some dark attic in the belly or pinkie. i make an effort to take in a deep, deep breath. as the oubreath makes its course, long and fine like the lotus stalk that arises out of a muddy pond, i look at it, in spite of the habitual pull that says, no, i don't want to look at it.

i am all of twenty-eight. i decide i want to write a movie script. so i do. i take it to a producer in a big movie studio. a few weeks later she calls me and says, i show it to my boss, she likes it, she wants to talk to you. what else could she want? make it into a movie. she says, suk wah, you play a nice planning role, after a few you'll direct. now, here's where my stupidity and arrogance kick in. it was the time when the first 'rocky' comes out. somehow i am hit with the idea that i can push this. so i say, either i direct or no movie. well, the studio head complies and shelves it.

before returning attention to meditation i ask this question. why am i seeing this now? what do i have to learn from this? the answer comes in a follow up memory. several years after that episode the studio head says, suk wah, i really like that script, is there any way you can look at it again? did i do it? no. why? i don't know. bingo. this is it. this is what's relevant to me right now. i have this manuscript. in order to finish it properly, to get it out there, i have to look at it again. and some how i just can't bring myself to examine it line by line, page by page. what is stopping me from whittling away at it day after day, the way i wrote it in the first place? 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

salutations to spiritual technology

i've been listening to an ancient mantra specifically for removing negativity and doubt. three to nine times at a time. mp3 and adobe files are on the desktop. i put on headset and instantly transported to the world where the fiery form of lord shiva tears off the fifth head of brahma. the brahmin's voice is pure and strong. the melody is more than lyrical. i can feel the vibrations working in the bone marrow and beyond. feeling great is great. but there's also proof is in the pudding. so now what's happening is the tune is sort of set into a neural circuit. it loops. i guess i can say i am having an experience of what the scriptures and guru say, to the effect, you can't just yank negativity out of the mind just like that and once and for all. well, i can but it's when i've already done enough spiritual work to prepare myself. suffice to say i am not in that category, not yet. here's the good news. the mind tends to get bored. it is all into the next new thing and wants to go towards the light. the light of joy. the light of courage. the light of strength. so a proven and tested remedy is to give the mind a new habit to chew on. when the mind is busy with setting up the new loop, audio, visual or a combination of both, i forget about negativity. and when i am aware of them i see them for what they are. ocean foam. look real but uc-ah. nope. that's fabulous news to me. no fighting necessary. easy way out. now all i have to to when i catch a thought, emotion that don't look and sound like my own inner self, just hit the buttons on the desktop and, voila, i am back in my own inner self. for some highly evolved yogis they don't need to go into such a long and elaborate chant for this purpose. but, mind you, suk wah, this is a thought that sounds like comparing based in poverty consciousness. go right back to the mantra. right now. okay. after posting this on facebook and twitter.

salutations to the power of spiritual technology.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

i know what i want the net for.

just finished taking pics and video of hwubby coaching a person in mumbai. skype. how else. how does this indian dude find out about hwubby? he is taking gmat. he realizes he needs help. not content. take my word to the bank. when asian students need help with exams and tests, it's almost never about content. anyway this person surfs the net, comes across hwubby's work in a forum, checks out his site and blog. and then hwubby gets this email from mumbai. money goes through paypal. e-book is sent. session set up. there you have it. the beginning of a global enterprise.

now i recall this often told metaphor on the spiritual path. a knife is a knife. in a surgeon's hand it saves lives. in a murderer's hand? so to me, the net is no different. it is so many things to so many people. i know exactly what i want the net for. to help me explore my own true nature. hwubby says, i put the mantra from my facebook brahmin in ipod. i listen to it again and again, on the bart, in kaiser's waiting room. it just brightens up the mind. no negativity. no doubt. how cool is that.

Monday, June 20, 2011

mp3 brahmin

i am emailing back and forth with a brahmin in an indian village. he is from a lineage of at least fourteen generations. he specializes in yajur vedas, a major branch in the four vedas. the vedas are what i think of as the hindu equivalent of torah. directly revealed scriptures. what is my point here? i am so fortunate. until as recent as a decade or so you have to travel far and wide, go deep into india and you have to know what to look for. it's a pilgrimage itself just to find a real brahmin, not to mention a great one. and here i am, sipping mango lassi, tweedling my thumbs in oakland, california, downloading an ancient mantra sent by this real deal brahmin on mp3. it is hilarious to watch him working my vedic charts. in traditional white brahmin garbs, in full lotus, entering my data into a laptop. i have forgotten to mention he is on facebook. hwubby and i are fortunate off the charts to be able to have him read our stars and planets face to face. but i understand he skypes. meet the twenty-first century brahmin.

all these delightful things aside the reason i have a sense he is for real is this. i don't like astrologers doing astro speak to me, like, mars is in retrograde, venus is moving into your eighth house, jupiter is not aligned...blah blah blah. all i want to know is whether i should fire my literary agent who has not made a sale yet. i can't grasp any of these astro-techno talk. in fact they confuse me. my brain becomes a mush. but this is not the way this brahmin works. he takes my birth data, enters into this software, and in a few moments he begins to speak, describing what stars and planets and so on are there. but it is obvious to me that he is not speaking to me so much as he is entering all this data into him. this goes on a couple of minutes. then he looks at me and says, in his accented but clear and direct english, this is your chart in general, now we can discuss, what questions you have? from then on he speaks in plain and simple language to me. his voice is bright and light. the timbre is metallic. the color is crystalline. it is suffused with authority steeped in a lifetime of rigorous learning and discipline.

as i reflect on being in his presence, i recall i have an experience in the past that is as close as can be to this. my younger sister is in the hospital. they tell me her liver is failing rapidly. it's in the eighties in hong kong. the doctor says, there's nothing we can do. i remember vividly how i feel deep within. i say to myself, no, i'm not going to let her die. i pull out all of my connections. i am given to call this person in taiwan. his name. dai ge. big brother in mandarin. all i know he is a practitioner of a secretive and exclusive branch of tibetan buddhism. supposedly he is elusive and hard to reach. but i get him just like that. i dial the number. he picks up. i tell him who sends me and say, my sister is very sick. he asks a simple question and puts me on hold. i don't think he is away for long. anyway when he returns he says, i have borrowed life for your sister, here's a mantra that she should repeat. i say, what's your fee? he says, no. i return to the hospital. before i can enter the ward a nurse greets me at the door. she says, your sister's liver function is much better. i go to my sister's bed. she's sitting up. i say, muimui, what happens? she says, last night i am sleeping... suddenly the room turns very bright, i see this man at the door, he says, come with me...i say, no, my big sister tells me not to go with anyone...he says again, come with me...i say, no, big sister tells me not to go with anyone... he says it the third time...i say the same thing...and he goes away... and the brightness disappears.

gee, why am i rambling all this ancient history? o, yes, the brahmin. i ask a question, or state my particular situation. he goes quiet for a moment. it is evident that his attention and gaze are turning within. who knows what worlds he is consciously watching. but all the time i have no doubt that he is present with me. in a couple of instances he asks a simple but totally unrelated question. and then he goes quiet again. i can sense that he is going through some scanning and computation within. and then he would give a direct answer to my question or remedy to the situation at hand.

hwubby says, a lot of the things he says are really what i feel deeply inside but the mind kicks into doubt, like, really, no, this can't be, it doesn't make sense. no, not to the physical senses. my inner self and the self of hwubby and the self of all are the same in essence. my inner self is no different from the self of the sun, moon, jupiter, mars and the stars and planets in the hundreds of billions of galaxies that the physical eyes can and cannot see. in fact i would go so far as to say my inner self is the same as the self that creates the entire physical universe.

i am listening and chanting along to the ancient mantra that the facebook brahmin mp3 me. the beautiful and bright vibrations fill me up. there's no room for negativity and doubt in the mind. and this is precisely the purpose of this mantra. take away negativity and doubt.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

my inner self and self of universe.

hwubby says, listen to this. i say, yeah? he says, i got a nice email. i say, you always get nice emails. he says, no, you are not listening. i say, okay, okay, what is this nice email? he says, remember when i coached the choirs in the universities in seattle? i says, ye-ah? he says, i asked the department chair if i could stay with her, she says, no my house is too messy but i've arranged you to stay in a bigger house. i say, yeah, i remember, so? he says, so i write to them, saying i have to stay in seattle two weeks for chinese bone treatments, and my wife would come for a few days, i ask them if i could stay with them, and i would be happy to contribute to rent and use of kitchen. i say, yeah, so? he says, they write right back, they say, just come and stay, they're happy to have me and don't worry about rent. i say, what about me, can i stay too? hwubby says, oy, it's always about you, isn't it.

kidding aside, it's really my growing experience that if and when i am on the right track, meaning i am listening to the inner self, the self of the universe sings with me in harmony. i know it's the right thing for hwubby to go to seattle for two weeks as brother pang says. so we just go ahead and book the tickets for the earliest time he can go. where is he going to stay? we don't know. well, the self of the universe knows.

Friday, June 17, 2011

chinese bone expert in backyard

hwubby is returning to seattle. not for work. to receive chinese treatments. what's that all about? we are so grateful to all the western medical care that he has been receiving. having said that here's what chinese believe. with severe injuries in the likes of broken bones and fractures there are bruises lodged deep within muscles, ligaments and tissues. they block circulation, blood and chi. down the line these blockages are what cause arthritis and other health problems. imagine plumbings. for instance, hwubby's left pinkie. the taxi hit his right side. he was thrown in the air, fell, dented the hood, cracked windshield, tossed into the icy night air again before falling on the freezing street on his left. his left pinkie is visibly swollen and twisted. yet the orthopedists say, the bones are not broken, this is the way it is, it just takes a long time for the swelling to go down. of course we trust the doctor. but meanwhile hwubby has been experiencing tremendous discomforts in the pinkie. it has become sort of a weather alert. the pain and swelling intensify sharply at the onset of temperature shifts. if it rains it's a double whammy. what does the orthopedist say? take painkillers if it's too much pain. really, with due respect, i feel deep within that painkillers are only dealing with the symptoms, not the root cause. the chinewse way to treat this is to draw out the bruises, break them down so they can be merged into circulation. kind of like kidney stones.

so i have been doing the only thing i know how to do in such a situation where the externals are saying this is the only reality. how do you find such a person in america? i pray. i pray again and again. i hold firm the intention that i would find the right chinese who knows how to take care of this. i look around in chinatown. i see one chinese doc sign after another. not one resonates with me.

then i need help myself. the pains in my shoulders spike. i pick up my bottle of chinese medical oil for alleviating muscle pains and all kinds of pains. indeed, one chinese oil works for all pains. i'm not kidding. ai-ya. it's almost empty. it so happens that my cousins, tommy and daisy, are coming to take us to dinner that evening. i place an emergency call to daisy. i say, daisy, daisy, help, i'm running out of woodlock oil. when they arrive our house, daisy rolls up her sleeves, places me sitting backward in a chair, rubs a couple of oil drops between her palms, and start working on my shoulders. miracle. i can feel the difference after the treatment. all right, why am i talking about me? o, yes, right, because it turns out daisy's older brother is the expert that i have been praying for. his father sent him to school to learn this ancient knowledge when he was little. he loves it. it's his passion but he doesn't want to make money with it. he only does it for family and friends. he makes his living as a construction worker. his colleagues are truly fortunate to have him.

anyway brother pang lives in seattle. so last month while hwubby was in seattle doing some work in seattle he went to brother pang. brother pang doesn't speak english. and he doesn't small talk. very simple and direct. he comes through the door, sees hwubby sitting on the couch, motions him to stand up, places him sitting backward in a hard chair, and starts working on hwubby. he prepares his own medical oils. takes a year to brew it properly. hwubby says, he would touch a certain part, rub oil on the skin, and in a few manuvers dark rainbow colors appear. i say, painful? hwubby says, o yes, o very, but i definitely feel the difference. aaah. beneficial pain.

brother pang works on hwuby's left pinkie. it takes a couple of treatments. hwubby says, it feels better. it looks less swollen and not as twisted as well.

brother pang says hwubby needs more treatments. that's why hwubby is going back. who knew. the right person is in my own backyard. we have so much wonders and marvels within us. and without. we just have to pay attention and be grateful. so much grace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

what's a real chinese meal like?

i'm in, robin, my jewish sis's car on the way to sabbath morning service and torah study. somehow our sabbath conversation turns to food. she says, can i get some real chinese food in berkeley. i say, yeah, but the one i really like is not in berkeley and the walls are covered with handwritten dish names that you don't find in the printed menus. robin says, yeah, i've seen that, and i don't really know what they are from the english translations. i say, you're right, they don't convey the depth and breadth of them. robin says, all right, so can you tell me what is a real chinese meal like? i pause for a moment or two. i say, okay, so here's a simple home meal i had recently.

check this out. a soup of american ginseng and black silk-bamboo chicken. slow cooked for hours, needless to say. my hostess got fresh fish from the tank. she didn't get the whole fish. robin says, why, i thought you eat the whole thing. i say, you're right but in this case my cousin, the hostess, makes an elegant decision because of what i like. robin says, which is what? i say, fish head. she braises the fish head with crumbled bean curd skin and shittake. i share the fish cheeks with my nephew. but the best part of this dish is the bean curd skin. it soaks up the essence of everything. the delicate texture and flavor of bean curd skin meld all the strong tastes into a rich and surreal whole. the fish tail is simply steamed with lots of julienne ginger and green onion. robin says, what about the rest of the fish? i chuckle and say, that's too tough for out palette because the fish is too big, we leave it for americans to do their fillet thing. robin laughs. i continue. for veggie there is stir fry hairy squash with dried shrimps. robin goes quiet before she says, you talk just like martin yang. i giggle, waggle a finger and say, uc-ah, i talk like me. robin says, that's right, that's right. robin has always been someone who strongly encourages me to speak up and speak for myself. during torah study sessions, every so often when i am not really sure if i want to say my two-cent amidst the fireworks of insights and comments robin would turn to me and say, do you have anything to say, suk wah? does she pick up my momentary contraction when i forget that the force of yhvh flows through me just as it does everyone else? i don't know. all i know is i am so fortunate to be able to enjoy all these fantastic and spectacular ancient traditions. i am a lucky chin-jew.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

breakfast with mrs obama

this classy health club that i have been guest in has a strong classroom. so i've been going to classes like, in the words of hwubby, suk wah's squeezing every drop out of the lemon. so there i am, this morning, walking into the room, all ready for my third class in the morning. nobody. i ask the front desk, what's going on. they say, she's leaving, people are waiting. who? mrs obama.

let's back up a little. there have been a beehive of activity around the back entrance of the hotel for several days. paving the driveway and then roping it so mrs obama will be the first one to step on it, or her motorcade, to be exact. veggie beds are put in. tomatoes, radishes, carrots are planted. nobody's asking my two cents. but, really, if i were to do it, i would transplant some robust tomato vines. now it's obvious that these teenie, weenie plant-lings have been where they are for what? well, butter up the first lady is a good enough reason, i guess.

by this time of the day i have no intention to go have mrs-obama-sighting. not that i didn't have the thought. i did. this morning hwubby and i arrive to see these cutie cutie secret service guys and gals parking themselves at strategic spots. in place of regular vehicles we see bomb squads, canine trucks, alameda sheriff's car. quite a sight. should i check the scene out? or shouldn't i? i decide, upon consideration, i want to stick to why i am here. to exercise. by the way here's a special shout out to one of the secret service cutie pies. he stops the paratrasit vehicle which we are on at the bottom of the hill when we come in early in the morning. the health club is at the top of the slope. he says politely to the driver, you have to stop here. then he sees hwubby and his cane. he says, are you able to walk up? before hwubby can say anything the secret service guy says, let me check. he goes away, returns after a few moments and says, you can go up. now we can actually say we have special permission from secret service to pass beyond checkpoint.

i digress. where am i? right, there's no class. so i wander outside to the slope leading down to the back entrance. i see some people in work out attire standing behind a yellow rope. most of them have their digital cameras in position. i spot a chef too. i think to myself, gee, doesn't he have to cook. somehow i find myself right at the yellow rope. so i park myself there. just when i begin to get impatient i hear this guy near me saying out loud what mrs obama is wearing, when she arrives, and she's about to leave for san francisco. someone shouts out to the secret service lady nearest to us, when is she coming out? she says, any minute now. sure enough. a few moments later several dark suit guys emerge from the hotel entrance. then a lady figure in white blouse and beige skirt walk briskly out. i don't have my distance glasses on. so i can't say i clearly see her face. i get excited with everybody around me anyway. i wave and call out, hi, mrs obama, good morning. the motorcade moves. i see someone wave in our direction behind the car window when the vehicle swerves around the driveway and we can see the side of it.

i turn around to the guy who is now calling his wife to tell her mrs obama is on her way to san francisco and burst out my burning question, do you know what mrs obama has for breakfast? the guy says, why don't you ask the chef, he's here. boom. so that is why that chef can stand out here to take pics. he's earned it. my eyes search around. i see him not too far to my right. i run up to him and say, what did you make? matt - i spot his name on his chef jacket - proudly says, poached egg with morel, grilled sourdough with asparagus and vinaigrette. so there you have it. i wave and hi mrs obama. and we have breakfast.

all this wonderful adventure happens not because i run after where mrs obama might be. on the contrary i stay focused on what i am doing. how do i learn this? i recall precisely when and how. early in the days when i am living the ashram i am this excitable little child. when word of where my guru is drift into my ear i can't help myself but drop whatever i am doing and run to it. so it is one day she is passing through the big dining room. i squeeze and dig my way through the crowds until i park myself behind a pillar. she is about one round table from me. suddenly i feel a tug from within, from deep in the belly. suddenly i feel my cheeks tingling. suddenly my heart races. i know what these signs point to. i feel like a child caught in something she ought not do. uc-oh, i should have stayed right where i am, i should not have left what i was doing. yeah, i was in the kitchen. that was where i was supposed to do service. so should i leave? should i stay? just about then my guru turns to the swami who is accompanying her. she says something to him. i wonder, what is she saying? i don't have to wonder for another moment longer because the swami looks around the dining room and says in his booming voice, people should go back to what they are doing. without a doubt i am sure i see my guru directly gazing into me as the swami makes clear her instruction. on the dot i turn around, return to the kitchen. i wish i can say i have learned the lesson once and for all. but as i can see for myself i have definitely not forgotten it. it is with me. it arises into my attention when i need it. i just have to listen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

so much respect for dancers

here i am trying so hard to keep up with the dance teacher's moves. this dance fitness class in the health club. i don't even recall why i would pick this class at all. but then again hwubby and i met in a singles dance in the ashram. anyway my hands and legs are like pasta twirling in boiling water, scattering in ten thousand directions. gee, it looks so much easier when i see the  teacher demonstrating the moves. now i can't even keep counts of three. i am several steps behind, struggling not to crash into others when i spot hwubby standing outside the room, laughing so hard he can't stand up straight. later he says, you look just like your idol, lucy - as in lucille ball. hearing that i realize how ridiculous and hilarious i must have looked. but check this out. i don't feel an iota of embarrassment or inadequacy. i laugh just as hard as hwubby. in fact, i say to the teacher after the class, now i have so much respect for dancers. indeed. they have to be present, in the body. there's no room for thoughts or any mental activity. there's just the flow of consciousness. by the way i am really glad i do the class. it's so much fun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

meshiach is when the world is filled with knowledge of god.

the fiftieth night from passover is phenomenally important to jews. how so? because this is when the sinai broadcast happens, when yhvh bestows upon the israelites the torah. so, this year, on this night, i tag along my jewish sis to attend an all night torah study feast. i call it a feast for two reasons. first, there's food, seriously nice food. i mean, for hundreds of people. second, there are teaching sessions from teachers of all threads of judaism. orthodox, reformed, renewal, hasidic and cabala. it's eight at night and the place is jam packed with people. the panoply of teaching sessions go on all night. being someone who goes to bed at eight i decide from the get go the most i can do are two sessions. three tops. so i look at the sessions list in ten thousand directions, trying to figure out which one i want to go. there are three or four that look kind of interesting. in the end i go to one because somehow i am drawn to the rabbi whom i spotted in the lobby earlier while i am wandering about. the first thing that catches my eye is a young hasid, in a wide hat, holding a folded wheelchair. a couple of feet from him is a cluster of people. floating on top of them is a huge fur hat. i shift myself so i can see who is under that hat. what do i see? a small old man in an immaculately cut, double breasted, black satin gaberdine. he has exquisite bones. rosy cheeks, robust, fair complexion. i am about ten feet away and i can't see wrinkles on the child-like face that is framed by a fizzy veil of bright white beard that conjures in me the image of morning mist. chinese say he has pure and clean bones. i realize i am in the presence of a bundle of dazzling divine lights. no wonder israelites can't look at moses directly after he speaks to yhvh. the lights are too bright for mortal eyes to take in. i turn to the person next to me and say, who is he? i am told, he's the samborer rebbe. and so i go to his teaching session.

he speaks softly. he sits behind a bare folding table. he barely moves. every now and then he would gesture. i can't take my eyes off his hands. they are hands of a child. i am no intellectual so i can't do justice to his scholarly prowess. but this much i know for sure. i am swimming deep in the sweet waters of torah. i am aloft in the beauty and majesty of his sound energy rather than their meaning. nonetheless a few nuggets stay with me. the essence of hashem descends on this night. men give in to tempations and the rest is history. meshiach is when the world is filled with the knowledge of god.

after the session, i position myself at the door. he is frail and at every step there are more than a few people who want to greet him, speak with him. i don't mind the wait at all. i am just reveling in his beautiful and marvelous presence. finally we are face to face. i say, it's an honor and joy to meet you, rabbi. his lively eyes sweep over me with such kindness and sweetness. in fact his whole countenance is just that. i cannot imagine avraham to be kinder than this. his rosy lips part and out come these words, wer d'yu come from? i say, hong kong. his eyes twinkle and sparkle. i can see worlds and eons pass by in a split second in his consciousness. he says, sher sher ni. it takes me a couple of moments to realize he is greeting me in my mother tongue. right then and there our connection transcends race, religion, gender and time.

i watch the young man help him into wheelchair. i am filled with gratitude. how fortunate i am to be able to meet a great presence without having to travel far and wide. truly the holy land is a state within, not a physical location.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

gratitude draws grace

this is the first week that doctors allow hwubby to start doing physical exercise unsupervised. a dear, dear friend gifts us a week at a chic chic health club. so there i am finding my way around this fancy schmancy place. who knew i would end up talking more than exercising. really. just in the locker room, and wearing nothing but a towel throwing over my shoulder, three women, in rather rapid succession, look at me and say, suk wah. all are people i haven't seen a long while. so of course they naturally ask, how's ben? now, check this out. they all have the same reaction when i say, he was hit by a taxi in new york city, sustained multiple fractures. first their eyes pop out right at me, jaws drop to the floor, and say, in different wordings, in total sincerity,  i'm so sorry, what a horrible tragedy. what is my reaction to their reaction? i find myself unable to bring myself to go along and say, yeah, what a horrible tragedy.

of course i don't wish it on anybody. it's not a painless trip. i'm not saying i am at a place where i can say, tragedy, what tragedy, no tragedy. hwubby is not saying, like lance armstrong does, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. but, as he says to them, i feel so very fortunate, fortunate to be alive, fortunate i don't have brain damage, spinal injury, fortunate i don't need surgery.

his ayurvedic doctor says, upon taking the first glance at him since the taxi hit, there's so much life in your eyes. hwubby says, gratitude, i have so much gratitude. indeed, living in gratitude draws grace like iron dust to magnet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

inevitable karmic outcome. fiery grace.

someone left this comment on my post 'birthday gift in form of violence.' it says, did this really happen? or dream? let me put it this way. it happens on the physical plane. it's so fascinating to see the dream quality of it. on the same episode, hwubby has his own version. here's how it goes down. he is aware that the bus stop at a corner. quite a few people are getting off and on. something catches his eye. a man dashes out of the cluster of people. he has this insane look about him. this is what is still haunting me about this man's presence. the qualities that come to mind are disturbed, bedraggled, disheveled. hwubby sees him yanking the bike off the rack in front of the bus. on the dot he runs across the bus and yells, stop him, he's stealing my bike. hwubby almost gets him because the man loses his balance while a truck barely stops in time. as i blog this i realize the truck could have hit both the guy and hwubby. anyway before hwubby could lay his hands on this guy he already rebalances himself and slips away. on  the bike.

as hwubby recounts this to me i see this shift in my perspective of this experience. i recall what the scriptures say about karma. chinese put it this way. whatever i think, speak and act there is consequence. it may come this lifetime or some later one. which one? how? that's out of my control. there are pieces in my karma profile that cannot be changed at their core or avoided. but the power of grace can diminish their impact. how does that work in this case? call me imaginative, i don't care. it couldn't have been so much worse. this guy might have a gun, or's where i pull in resolve not to feed the negative thoughts. it is what it is. i am grateful. we are grateful. as my fellow esteemed yogis harry and helen say, you'll forget the bike but meditation and rudram will always be with you. thanks so much, harry and helen, for reminding me about what's real, what's not.

hey, now i remember a story. my great-grand-baba would sit for days without moving. one day he gets up, goes into the forest. according to the people who are with him he knows exactly where he is going. they arrive deep in the forest and sees a snake sit in a coil. swiftly my great-grand-baba goes up to the snake. the snake stays utterly still even in the moment it is struck dead. people are stunned. they say, why do you commit such a violet act, baba? he says, this soul killed me in another lifetime, that's why he is now low in the life chain, he's waiting for me to finish this karma, i receive his call in meditation, now he is free, he can move up.

aaah. may i be free of resistance, lack of understanding and the inability to surrender.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

rudram. in light. no darkness.

how do you kick out negativity? the ancient yogis find this out thousand of years of go. you don't chase away darkness. you can't. actually, you can if you have that kind of spiritual strength to just drop it. but if you can't, like me, you can turn on the light, you know, like turn the switch on and darkness disappears, just like that. i have always liked this metaphor but it's kind of like a nice story. i don't own it. now i do. what happens is this. i find my attention being tossed around relentlessly in tornadoes of negativity as a result of the birthday attack. all i can hang on to with my dear life is this. don't fight it. duck into the breath. but even that proves to be difficult. i am being sucked again and again out of the breath flow. really. inner work is demanding and exhausting. anyway when i finally gather enough strength to sit down to meditate, it's a breeze to sit through an hour. i realize i am reaping the fruit borne out of years of regular practice. as i stand up from the meditation mat i feel drawn to chanting rudram. so i do. i turn up the volume. vivek, the brahmin priest's voice fills and resounds in my meditation closet. very quickly i can see something happening in my voice. i start off weak and thin and low. before i know it i hear my voice getting brighter and brighter, stronger and stronger, clearer and clearer. it just happens. i honestly am not doing anything consciously to make it the way it is going. the garland of sounds fills up all the nooks and crannies and crevices in the body and mind. really. there is not an iota of space for negativity. impossible to find darkness in a light filled space.

Friday, June 3, 2011

birthday gift in form of violence

it is my birthday and who knew what shape, color and tone a birthday gift would take and from where it strikes? a violent assault. here's the story. hwubby arranges for us to go to chinatown to have birthday dim sum. he has thought it through. he has to go to san francisco for business and he wants to spend as much birthday time with me as possible. so he decides to take along his bike while we take the bus to chinatown. everything is fine. we have a lovely and sweet conversation while waiting for the bus. it comes. hwubby sets the bike the way he always does. the way every biker always does. on the rack in front of the bus. i get on the bus first. which seat should i take? front? or back? back seats are more elevated. has a little wider, more open view. so i go to the back seat. hwubby pays. we continue our sweet exchange. i barely pay attention to when the bus stops and restarts at the familiar stops. after all this is the bus that i take to chinatown. now i don't recall whether i or hwubby catches this first. as i blog all i know is this. i realize a guy, a bearded guy, is trying to remove hwubby's bike. i am in disbelief for a moment while hwubby is already sprinting forward. i start to yell, stop him, he's stealing my husband's bike. while hwubby is jumping off the bus the guy is already on the bike. i get up and run out of the bus and run and towards this guy. out of the corner of my eyes i see several people gather at the far corner of the block. the guy is across the street going towards the far corner. i am on this side of  the street, running and screaming at the top of lungs, he's stealing my husband's bike. hwubby is running after him, losing out further and further as this guy turns the corner, passes the cluster of people at the far corner and disappears out of my view.

this all happens eleven in the morning. on my birthday. i am still rattled and unsettled. i gather all the will and strength i can pull together. i meditate. i see the rudram, the vedic hymn praising lord rudra, beside the bed. i sit down and chant it. very soon i get the inner message. do a rudram saptah. midway through i hear this message. deal with things as they are. i know what it means. the video of what happens auto-replays in the mind along with questions of what if, should have, how come those people just stand by and watch all this, if only i didn't...

i struggle out of bed, have a sip of cooling coconut water. these lines from the poem 'breakthrough' comes to mind. 'resistance, lack of understanding, and the inability to surrender created one wave after another. i was struck by each wave and washed clean.' yes, it feels like that, being struck by a towering wave. so i suppose i am in the process of being washed clean. i have no idea yet what it is being cleansed out of me. whatever it is, may the power of grace grant me the strength and resolve to go through what i need to go through.

and then there are these two lines right after the previous lines referenced above. 'each successive breakthrough came at the peak of intense tapasya. and it was also the fruit of that austerity.'

is this the peak yet? i don't know. has the fruit been borne and ripened? no idea. to be continued.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

me and markandeya

it's been a two day feast of sublime vedic mantras. there's one in particular that impresses on me so much that i think to myself, i can never forget this melody. it soars and swirls everywhere in the head while massaging the heart sweetly and tenderly. then yesterday i go through a day of worldly activity. by the time i go to bed i am ready to bring up that beautiful melody of this vedic hymn. o me o my i can't recall a note. seriously. after struggling a little bit, getting frustrated a little bit i take a long sigh and let it go. somehow i have the sense that one way or another i will get it back. by the time i sit down for meditation this morning i have already forgotten about the struggle the night before. i go about my meditation ritual, calmly and happily settle into a sweet and nice state when, just like that, the melody i have been looking for arises spontaneously from within. the voice is powerful. the color is bright. the tone is crystal clear. so there i am, sitting in a comfortable and upright posture, immersed in the resounding vibration that is, as a matter of fact, soundless.

and then i remember something else. a magical story associated with this hymn. yama, the lord of death, riding on his buffalo, goes to collect a soul whose time has come to leave the body. of course this is no ordinary mortal like me. when it's time for me to go, yama sends the lowliest of his servants. so who is this guy that demands yama himself to come? look at this scene. yama can't even go inside and drag his feet the way his servant would be doing with me. yama is standing outside and says loudly, come out, markandeya. inside, this markandeya is one-pointedly doing worship to shiva lingam. what's the story with this maekandeya? he is sixteen years old. his father is a brahmin. his mother has boundless devotion. together they have done phenomenal austerities. so much so that shiva comes and asks him, what do you want. the brahmin says, i have your darshan, my lord, i don't want anything. shiva turns to his wife and asks, what do you want? his wife says, i want a child. shiva says, i can't change your destiny but since i grant you a want, you can choose between a wise child who lives to sixteen and a foolish child who lives to a hundred. the couple discusses among themselves, and says, we want a wise child. so maekandeya is born. when he is five he asks his mother, why are you crying so much since i have memory, have i done anything wrong? his mother says, again and again, no. finally maekandeya says, i will stop eating unless you tell me why are you crying so much? his mother tells him what shiva says. maekandeya says, i am five, i still have eleven years. so in the ensuing years markandeya dedicates himself to the worship of shiva. fast forward. that takes us to the moment when he is supposed to die and yama is standing outside, demanding him to go. markandeya is so immersed in the worship of shiva that he wraps himself, hand and feet, around the shiva lingam. no matter how loud and hard yama calls markandeya's mind is totally immersed in the mantra. finally yama is out of patience. he throws out a noose over markandeya's neck. but since the boy is all around the shiva lingam, the noose is all over the lord as well. at this point shiva manifests himself, with his third eyes wide open. shiva is furious. he says to yama, what are you doing? yama realizes he has done a big disrespect to his boss. what about why he is there the first place? never mind. forget it. even yama has to run for his life.

the mantra markandeya is singing with all his heart is the one that i love so much that it arises spontaneously in my meditation. me, markandeya, the beautiful melody are one.