Tuesday, November 29, 2011

maharaj tai tai

what is this?  where am i? let me back up a little. as i type this i am cooped up in a cubicle in an internet cafe in pune, india. not from my computer. how long have i been in india? feels like lifetimes when it's, really, the fifth day. we're staying in this nice, airy and spacious apartment on the fourth floor. a roof-top terrace outside the bedroom. my hostess, sadhana, says, people ask me, who are these people from america staying in your daughter's apartment, her classmates in university? graduate school? her colleagues? or relatives? i say, no, no, no, my daughter says i go to see their house for renting, we talk, they are such good people, you'll like them, mother. just like that we end up staying with this wonderful family. i must confess when kanchan, sadhana's daughter, shows up at my door i was scratching my head and pulling hair trying to figure out how to get to satara to visit my brahmin priest, vivek, the person in white garb who is between me and hwubby in the pix. satara is six to seven hours by car from mumbai and pune is midway between them. that much i know. since i don't know anyone in pune i think i have to go straight to satara from mumbai. i have no idea how to do that. how do i get a trustworthy driver who knows how to get to where i want to go and at a reasonable price? not to mention i have a hard time trying to understand english with a heavy indian accent. i am sure the indian on the other end of the line feels the same about understanding english with chinese accent. at one point when i am feeling exasperation spilling over my eyeballs i say to myself and hwubby, maybe it is not meant to be to visit the brahmin's school. hwubby says, but you want to go to vivek's school. i do. vivek is a much loved and respected brahmin priest. he has dedicated his life to preserving and spreading the ancient, timeless and timely wisdom and teachings of vedas, the hindu scriptures, the equivalent of torah in judaism, only two thousand years older. he sets up this school, takes in young boys. they live and study with him. they milk cows, look at stars and planes, and learn the scriptures. it is a way of life. they live and breathe the teachings. it moves me to tears to see these little children loudly reciting the sutras that have endured thousands of years with their fresh and vibrant young voices. so, yes, i do want to visit vivek's school. it is always wonderful and marvelous to be around people who are into the upliftment of humanity and to do it with so much joy. yes, vivek is a lot of joy to be with. so you can't imagine how thrilled i am when kanchan offers me, practically a stranger in her life, to stay in her home in pune. and check this out. her mother, sadhana, has a car and driver whose sister lives in satara. so he knows his way around. on top of all this, it turns out sadhana and vivek has connections that go way back. when vivek was doing advanced studies he went to benares and stayed with someone in sadhana's family. his teacher likes to play with sadhana the little girl. vivek therefore knows all of sadhana's family in benares. what does all this mean? i am reaping the benefits. hwubby and i are being taken care of like maharaj. i have anointed myself to be a maharaj tai tai. tai tai is the chinese name for a wife who is used to being pampered and spoiled. i have no problem with that. we have a sublime time in vivek's school. he and six brahmin priests perform a beautiful ritual to bless hwubby's forthcoming book. we are divinely happy and grateful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

fishballs. un-ding-able

fai uncle says, what do you want to eat, western food? i say, no way, this is aberdeen, i have to have fishball fun. he says, all-rai, let's go to the cave. i'm not kidding. this place started long, long ago in a hill hole in aberdeen, the fishing village. now it's two stores connected by a hole in the wall. no frill furnishing. at lunchtimes and weekends the place is jam packed. it is tucked inside a narrow alleyway, barely enough for a hybrid to move through. people drive all the way from downtown for their fishballs. and they don't disappoint. move over, gefilte fish. they have really humble beginnings. the milky white meat is a hodge podge of small fish that are not worthy to be sold on their own. so fishermen, probably their hard-working wives, chop them up. somewhere along the line the technique of kneading fish meat is developed. when done properly, voila, ugly duckling is transformed into swan. the texture is resilient and bouncy. it tastes like mild and gentle ocean. balls that hop and pop in the mouth. it goes fantastically well with flat rice noodle, fun, in a broth of fish bones and head. sprinkled with green onion and preserved veggi this is a dream lunch in a bowl for me. hong kong chinese have a way of blending english and cantonese. so i say this fishball is un-ding-able ---it's so good that you can't beat this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

hong kong. breakthrough.

from the get go don't get me wrong. hong kong is, if not the most, right up there on the list of most dynamic and vibrant and amazing places in the world. this pearl of the east can electrify you, dazzle you and rocket you straight out to deep space where planets and galaxies are being created and destructed nonstop as i type. i ask my aunt, where is the street where grandpa's laundromat was? she says, the street name is there but the street is no more. i say, what do you mean, i do know in hong kong we tear down and rebuild all the time but the whole street? she says, yeah, the whole street, even i don't recognize anything and it's still building and rebuilding. i'm not exaggerating when i say i can see a subway stop on every street. move over, starbucks. now, what am i getting at? o yes, people. so many people. people on the move. i have yet to see a person in hong kong that stands still for a moment. by the way, hwubby says, i have never seen so many fancy footwear. and they go about so fast i feel this background anxiety that someone would just stamp on my foot and just walk on. to the next sumptuous meal. to the next fancy shop. to the next deal. when the stop light turns green waves of people would roam into the street. several times i look around taking in these smart, on the move people and i recall these words from the poem breakthrough.

millions of lives ca be lived.
but for what purpose if there's no breakthrough

is my life all about making money? gathering fame? sucking attention? acquiring things? obviously i didn't feel so. or else i would not have left cause there's no better place on earth to make money. i mean m. o. n. e. y.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

occupy south san francisco

what's going on here? when? where? here's the scoop. a couple of hours before the flight to hong kong. in my cousin's living room. hwubby is making decisions on what not to take. not. to. take. my cousin is really great. he would say something along the line of 'may i make a suggestion?' 'if this is not absolutely necessary...' meanwhile i'm like, what's this? just when i'm about to get upset, well, actually, already a little bit, sort of, upset, a surge of bright and joyous energy overtakes me and i hear these words spring out of me.

welcome to occupy south san francisco.

after a nice laugh, we, or more accurately, hwubby, keeps moving. believe you me he actually eliminates more than half of the stuff. as i am typing this in hong kong there is a huge packed suitcase sitting somewhere in my cousin's house a pond away. he's such a generous guy. so is his wife. i know for sure they won't send us a bill for storage. :)

they are indeed out of this world generous. come to our house to pick us up. we walk into the door to a incredibly thoughtful and delish meal. fit for king and queen to embark on their royal travel. a nourishing homemade pork soup with meaty shittake, bean curd sheets and gentle chinese herbs, steamed fish, chicken with ginger sauce. the highlight of highlights is poached fresh shrimps. trust me, the best part in such shrimps is the head. you suck it till dry. the flavor profile covers the whole range from deeply rich briny to lightly sweet. needless to say i finish off the last ones of the two and a half pounds. and also wipe clean the bottom of the dish holding my top fave chinese homey vegi dish, hairy squash, dried shrimps and mung noodles. where am i? yes, my generous cousins. then they just let hwubby be. occupy their living room. dispensing much needed advice in sweet and lighthearted ways. for entertainment there is my delightful niece as a halloween banana. it couldn't have been a more perfect sendoff. thank you, agnes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

life path. stamps. detergents. inner self covers them all.

it never ceases to amaze me how my highest and innermost self watches out for me and guides me. lofty. nothing is too lofty. minutiae. nothing is too minutiae. so what about minutiae? there i am walking to the laundromat to do the down coat. a few houses down i get this inner prompting. go back. why would i turn around? there's got to be a reason, right? o, the cell. i left the house without the cell. but do i need the cell? not that i am aware of. but what if hwubby calls me. just in case. okay, okay. so i turn back reluctantly. i'm not kidding. no sooner than one foot of mine is over the threshold does it dawn on me that i left the house without the little tub of detergent. so that's the real reason that i have to turn back. of course this is not a life-or-death situation. here the worst case scenario is i have to purchase soap in the laundromat. but that's not the point. this is about learning to listen to the inner voice that guides me moment to moment. my innermost self doesn't wait until i am about to step off a cliff before telling me to back off. by the way if i say, let me wait until that moment, i sure will hear such thunder call, it's like the child saying i'm not learning read and write and i'll know how to write a book when i have to write a book. where am i? o yes, the inner self is speaking directly to me from the get go. it goes way back to when i take the first step onto the path that leads to the cliff edge. a whisper. don't go there. or the opposite. go.

speaking of 'to go or  not to go' i get a earful of it in the morning on the same day. i need to purchase some priority stamps. at the post office counter the worker says, we are out of them. so i leave. i am no further  than rounding the corner of the post office when i feel i have to go back. i say, suk wah, you are nuts. but that nudging sense just wouldn't go away. in fact it keeps gripping me stronger and stronger by the breath. so the mind starts trying to make up a rationale. o, yes, i forgot to pick up priority mail labels. never mind that it doesn't make sense when i have to come back to get the stamps anyway. so i actually feel a little stupid to push open that glass door. i kind of sneak in, turn my back sort of to the counters and head straight to the supplies section. i look up and down and back. i don't see the label that i think i have come back for. suddenly i hear a cry from behind me. hey, we found some stamps. 

the manager and the worker both can't get over it. how do you know to come back? i say, i just know.

indeed. the voice of my innermost and highest self shows me my life path and takes care of priority stamps and detergent as well. how cool is that.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

taking in each moment as it comes

just days away from boarding a plane to hong kong. this is something we have meant and planned to do twice in twelve months. and twice we canceled. first it was hwubby not healing properly after extensive gum surgeries. then it was him hit by a taxi. call me superstitious, whatever. this time around i said i am not going to make any formal announcement, and by that i mean telling my eighty-one-year-young mother, until a week before departure. so there i am narrowing down the choices for travel insurance - we didn't have any the first time and we lost a bundle - when hwubby walks through the door and says, they have to extract a tooth on friday. can anyone blame me for feeling a punch and squeeze in the chest. i can see ten thousand thoughts going in ten thousand and one directions. fortunately i spot a lifeline in the mumbo jumbo of mental jungle. a golden ray that clearly says, stay in the present. so i take a deep breath in, long breath out. i have to do it a few rounds. the sense of being overwhelmed keeps shooting out tentacles like a giant octopus and going straight towards my neck. a couple of times it nearly gets me. before it can have my neck in its grip i keep saying to myself quietly, stay in the present, stay in the present. it's hard work, i'm telling ya. by the time i go to bed i feel like i come out of a hard-won struggle. i am not blinded by tendencies borne out of poverty consciousness. i am simply, as hwubby says, you are really working hard to take in each moment as it comes, good for you. hey, i'll take that.

wow. i'm not kidding. as i am typing this, hwubby calls and says, i can have the tooth pulled this afternoon instead of friday. such a move on the part of grace. i feel like this is my reward for staying in the moment.

Monday, November 7, 2011

wonderful niece teaches her aunt

hwubby says, agnes has an important question for you. so i turn to my fabulous and cool twelve-year-old niece and says, fire away. with a slight smile that carries a lot of thoughtfulness agnes says, what is meditating? picture this. we are having indian food. we and my chinese family. we are sipping chai, mango lassi,  gobbling up tandoori prawn, mutton curry, slow cooked spinach in homemade indian cheese, three-time baked pork ribs, chicken masala, dipping fresh naan and paratha into chutney and curry, and so on and so on. when it's time to leave, there's no leftover whatsoever. that's how great the food is. i say to tommy, my cousin, at one point, india and china, the countries of the twenty-first century, we sure have the best of all the worlds. okay, back to agnes. anyway before i utter a sound her mother answers my burning question, what brings her to ask me this? well, it is really sweet. agnes wants to get me a gift. she knows i like to meditate. so she wants to get me a gift about meditating. and thereby the question. i stop eating and gaze into her young, fresh and earnest face. i say, it's a form of focusing. and here comes the dialogue.

focusing, focusing on something you like. oh. what do you like to do, agnes? i like drawing. well, when you are drawing, you are paying attention, you are focusing on the drawing, that's a form of meditating, and for me i focus on my own true nature and divine presence. what do you do in meditating? i get up at four, have a hot drink, brush teeth, shower, do some stretches, then sit down and meditate for one and a half hour, i sit quietly, watch my breath. how do you watch your breath? well, it's actually more like paying attention to the breath moving in and out. we are always breathing, aren't we? yes, we are, agnes but we may not be paying attention to it.

her illuminating question sends me deeper than ever in meditation today. at some point as i revel in the quiet bliss of my own true nature this comes to me. since little i have always wanted to attain perfection. i tried on my own. didn't work. i looked here and there. couldn't find a satisfying answer. so i began to look for someone who can show me how to do that. it was not an easy search. eventually i found a teacher. she knows a lot about perfection. she teaches me this. perfection is something you already have inside you. it's who you really are. to know perfection, to experience perfection, to live in the state of perfection you have to meditate regularly. and so i meditate everyday.

really. i never know from whom i can learn something. a child with her pure heart can always teach me something important. keep an open mind, eye and ear. hey, thank you, my fabulous and cool niece.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

what doe it take to have that level of faith?

making dream real is messy business. not for the fainthearted. make no mistake. i am not complaining. hwubby's book is picked up by a major national distributor. it is coming out with a new edition. exciting, right? you bet it is. what it also means is a tsunami of tasks descending upon us. we are fortunate enough to hire a publicity person. that said, we are doing a lot of work ourselves. like galley send. the publicity person understands our situation. she thinks a lot of hwubby's book, sees nice demand for it, so she is willing to give us the media list and we take care of the logistics of sending galleys to magazines and publications. it's phenomenal that she is willing to do this because such lists are her bread and butter. anyhow the big mailing day falls on the day of occupy oakland. hwubby and i really want to go to show our support for the cause. we figure we would start early, be done by early afternoon and then go to downtown oakland. i thought i was prepared for the unexpected. but from the get go everything took longer than i thought it would be. for instance it's difficult to read the tiny printout that got more smudged after going through failed internet faxing and email attachment. is it 'fl 2'? or 'f 12?' bickie? or bickle? o, how about this? i put three mailing lists on three sheets in one excel workbook? then i can't get the merge function to work on the second and third sheet. just like that, one thing piles up on top of another. at one point hwubby says, stop talking to me like that, you are dictatorial. and i thought i was just trying to move things along and get things done. oy yoi yoi.

we did meet the post office's closing time. but by then it's after seven thirty. could we still go out to downtown oakland? maybe. but i didn't. i just couldn't see how i could do that and still get up early. am i then just looking out for my self-interest and awol-ing for something bigger than myself? well, i have to be honest. i was too tired to think straight. and even if i am not i would still have done what i did because in the moments when we had to make choices to move the thing in one way or another it's hard to make myself do anything that might jeopardize hwubby's dream that's been a long time in the making.

as i read today's torah portion where yhvh calls abram to leave his life as it is i have such renewed respect for abram's move. what does it take to have that level of faith? i want it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

step back. he didn't ask for my help.

i get out of bed in pitch dark. hwubby is already up. i am giving him a morning kiss when i see that he is entering some data that i have done already the day before. it occurs to me that this is not necessary. i begin to show him the alternative pathway. some back and forth later i am standing next to his computer knee deep in helping him to figure out how to do a data transfer. well, of course i don't think i sound short and brusque. but there he is, saying, don't get impatient with me, i didn't ask for your help. wo. part of me is more than ready to snap back. then the essence of my guru's words take hold of my breath and thought.

the tests come in many forms.
sometimes they strike like lightning.
sometimes they are as sharp as a million needles.
and sometimes they come cloaked in absolute numbness.
what is needed at all times is full faith and surrender.

mentally i step back. i breathe in, a deep one. i say, i'm so sorry i got you so upset..

indeed. he is right. he didn't ask for my help. and i didn't keep my eye on the ball. as i gently return attention again and again to that elusive yet vast space between breaths i see an old tendency. easily get distracted and pulled out of the present.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

make the life that i choose to live a worthy one

the day's meditation is wonderful. i come away from the meditation seat like the velvety night cosmos that is sprinkled with starry glitter. a galaxy of, for the lack of a less cliche word, inspirations, fill my breaths. i am so on track to writing. hoo. what is the first thing that catches my eye? papers at my doorstep. left by hwubby for me to deal with. medical claims to process asap, that are yet to be filled out properly. i quickly spot certain signature spots that are still empty. bah. that means they have to wait until hwubby's home from a long day of medical appointments. can't go into mail today. bummer. what else is there crowding my doorstep and crying to be taken care of. documents to review, that carry long term financial consequences. this task to follow up. that task to follow through. before long a major delivery arrives, signaling the onset of a huge project that has to be completed in the next twenty four hours. faster than i can let out a breath this heaviness comes over me. just like that all those delightful writing glitter recede fast into the neighborhood of those one hundred billion galaxies that gazillions of light years away from planet earth.

the phone rings. it's hwubby. after the brief phone call i quickly realize my voice and tone are short and brusque. as i make my breakfast of egg white and ghee i recall these words of my guru.

make the life that i choose to live a worthy one. it is a matter of great fortune to rejoice in life having once sacrificed it. life is not like an an abandoned fruit. yet it requires absolute sacrifice.

well, well, well, after eleven months of perseverance i have finally arrived at the finale verses of the poem breakthrough. i have earned the rights to relish the fruits of my effort. and what is 'sacrifice' but that effort that gets me come closer to god, to my own true nature. and i know enough after twenty years on the path that despondency and discouraged are not attributes of what i am made of. what is required at  such times, at all times, is full faith and surrender. and i decide this is exactly what i am going to do. i call hwubby. i say, i am so sorry i was short and brusque, maybe that clash between left and right brain throws me off. he is just so happy that i call, totally empathetic. what a sweet life i have. a-hah. the life i choose to live is sweet and juicy and flavorful.