Holding my tardiness with loving-kindness

Tardiness showed up in the helter-skelter path the pen took across these lines. Does it reveal the weight of my instrument or the speed of my thoughts? Or the flimsy stance I held towards writing on days my will took a blow? Or that it minded more to me how it looks than how it reads, falling through that ancient trap door once again. It’s old but it needs no oiling since I roll down its way ever so often, even before an inch of dust could settle.

This critical voice seems almost perennial, echoing the same old tune while employing antiquated methods in assaults and cajoling. Superior or worthless, it can’t quite decide its verdict for me. 

Who would believe this relentless force came from a place of love? I cracked open each doll to unveil yet another doll, and another… till I finally reached the littlest one to witness the love buried deep within. Perfect love manifested by imperfect beings that landed bruises on the heart of the young. With each bruise, one possibility shut.

A little girl bound her legs to stilts and padded her shoulders to pull that extra weight and scale the professional ladder. To protect the old bruises from hurting, she relied on scapegoats for the way she turned out, for her flaws and failures, and unfulfilled life. She kept going, reaching new heights, so she could steer away from the sense of worthlessness that pervaded the air she breathed. A poor attempt at adulting without truly entering adulthood.

Admission to adulthood requires responsibility and commitment to the Self. The word “myself” is essentially an ownership of self. A large part of growing up requires a reconciliation with our past. We make a commitment to ourselves: a deliberate and intentional choice to own our Selves and honor our Selves. This includes picking up our pieces and nursing our wounds. 

As I uncover each pure nugget of truth, I hold it with care and wash away my shame before it washes over my soul. I weep over the brokenness and mend it with loving-kindness. I’m on a journey of growth to reopen the closed possibilities one by one to move towards being whole again. The tardiness is mine. It is also a sign of labor: my sail through turbulent waters, and my ideas rioting against the grain of the paper.

A Drop of the Ocean

It was a rough morning. My heart has yet to recover from the experience of George Floyd and the racial injustice and protests surrounding it, and two other pieces of news piled on. One of a pregnant wild elephant in India, which died after being fed a firecracker-filled pineapple. It wasn’t by accident; it was deliberate. Another of seven Singaporean men who drugged and raped four of their wives over the course of eight years (2010 – 2018). I wasn’t aware this happened till my friend shared a petition sparked by it.

I felt sick, so sick. Beneath the sadness and anger, I was sickened by the horrors of humanity. I cannot fathom the minds of those who commit such sins. I believe every soul is precious and that as humans, when we act out, we sin from a place of suffering. This is my anchor which guides me towards practicing compassion. Yet after reading these news, it has become extremely difficult, almost impossible to find my ground. I do not know how to make sense of my experience. 

What has the world become? Has it gotten worse? Despite countless lessons from history and technological advancements, have we neither learnt nor evolved as human beings? To think we are even developing artificial intelligence to mimic humans. Are we even at the stage to program ethical rules and algorithms for robots when we have not even resolved our own ethical and moral problems? It doesn’t even seem like we’re close to resolving them. Science has carved out new frontiers for us, prolonged our lives, discovered planets, we’ve progressed biologically and materially, but what about our souls? Have we given sufficient attention to our virtues and inherent goodness? No matter the era, horrifying acts, manifested differently, are repeated ad nauseum.

Is this the struggle of Mankind? Is this the suffering that Man has to undergo? I ponder over the privileged life I’ve led thus far; the conditions that have enabled me to live in an environment where I could judge acts as revolting. This decency I have, is it a given? If I was raised in a culture where violence is condoned, where I learnt to use a rifle at the age of five; or a culture where women have no rights, will I still view these acts with the same disdain? Would I be able to see the ugliness in them? I never knew what a blessing it is to know and recognise beauty. The truth I thought I had known falls apart, and my world crumbles. 

For a brief moment, I felt the deep pain of humanity. Was I afforded a glimpse of the world’s suffering that Buddha saw? Suffering is an ineluctable condition of living. I understood this truth but in that moment, I experienced it. I became acutely aware of the shared suffering we have to undergo as a species being. It was as though a window opened, and I felt the pain of others pouring in. Perhaps this is humility. The inner knowingness of my connectedness to the wider web of living beings. This is my place in the world—I am a drop in and of the ocean. I make up the ocean and I’m made of the ocean.

Perhaps the lesson I’m meant to learn is to recognise and treasure my own experiences and life, and make the most out of it. Before jumping into what I can or want to do, to consider what I want to be. I want to be awakened to both the horrors and holiness of Mankind. I want to know human nature, in all its facets and extremities. How might I learn without armoring or hardening, without building a fortress around my heart? Let’s take a breath here. 

Breathe. 

Remembering my teacher’s reminder: when it’s too much, pause and breathe. Slowly and gently. I don’t have to take in everything at once. Take what I can, sense where my edge is. No pushing needed, just gentle allowing. This is being with what is. 

What is living? What is the truth of humanity? What is this enigmatic concoction of beast and divinity that holds the power to bring about despair and destruction, hope and salvation? Many in my lineage have wandered into the deep waters to capture its essence, so what might I uncover for myself? 

To know the purpose of life and the meaning of suffering, I first begin by dropping the shields protecting my own pain and suffering. I surrender. I will then confront and live through the experiences I have skipped through or dismissed. I will hold my flaws in loving kindness. I will take a step closer to truth each time, and when a layer crumbles, grieve and rise again.

As I pour these tears out, I feel an opening within me—strength and groundedness arising. Energy emanating from my core; my heart, spacious and light; my vision, clear and bright. I will hold my preciousness, and keep writing. 

How I Moved from Fear to Abundance

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

Eckhart Tolle

Two of my friends in different states of the United States were tested for COVID-19, one presumptively positive. A friend back in Singapore came into contact with a carrier. My husband’s school president is down with it. My father’s colleague’s son was down with it. I am blessed and privileged to be safely sheltered during this period. But just how close is the virus to me?

With every one-degree of separation, there is someone who shares a brief encounter with the virus. This coronavirus situation has brought challenges and disruptions to us all, and it shows us, more than ever before, how connected we are.

I worry for my friends and family. Since the end of January when the situation first caught fire in Singapore, I had been paying attention to the news, watching it spread to various parts of the world, finally reaching the eastern shores of the US where I currently reside.

I experienced anxieties over what disruptions this will bring. Sleepless nights, and being at home for long periods of time didn’t help. I felt disconnected from people and reality. I was watching myself being swept and sucked into the storm, spiraling helplessly downwards. Depressed, I asked myself the same question repeatedly, “What can I do to help? What’s my purpose in such a situation?” Of course, the constant interrogation by my mind didn’t help. If anything, I was proven right by my critical mind how useless I was.

As humans, we are control freaks. Many of us attempt to control our future, another person, things outside of us. I am, but human. My breakthrough came when I acknowledged that and simply allowed myself to take it all in—the anxiety, the desire to help, the helplessness, the loss, the confusion.

A surrender to everyday life

As the world slowed down, I allowed myself to slow down as well and observed my experiences more closely.

In times of uncertainty, there is little I can control. Accepting that tomorrow is always uncertain can help ease anxiety. I don’t mean resigning to my current plight. The situation persists whether I am anxious or not, so why not go easier on myself?

I can accept that nothing external to me is within my control and learn to notice the power within me. I do not give up hope because the future seems bleak or murky. I carry hope because I have the power within me to shape new ones. And so do you. We each have the responsibility (response-ability) to be with come what may. Where we can assert our control, that’s where we have power. Given that we have little power over what’s happening around us, how about placing attention on what’s within us? Controlling our attention enables us to alter our relationships with what’s around us and how we experience life.

Start by bringing yourself to the present. Live each day as each.

Set an intention before you start your day.

Tune in to yourself each morning, get inside yourself, and ask for an intention. Are you intending to create something, accomplish something, or communicate something? Put that into words if you can. It can be something as simple as “I intend to hydrate and prepare nutritious food for myself today.” I practice writing Morning Pages every morning to unload whatever is on my mind. This helps me start each day afresh. I then end my writing with a Tarot card draw to help me intuit the question of “What am I to do today?” This helps me create an intention for my day. As I face whatever chaos is swirling around me through my day, I remind myself of my intention, letting it guide my choices and steps.

You don’t have to manage everything; just manage yourself.

Take pauses daily to check in with yourself. How are you right now? What do I need most right now? Allow yourself to be with the emotions and sensations that are arising. Give yourself a hug and tell yourself, “It’s ok. I’m here for you.” On days when I wake up feeling lethargic or depressed, I look myself in the mirror after I brush my teeth and assure myself “I’ve got you.”

I spent hours on social media initially, scrolling through news and I freaked out. I had a panic attack. If you are like me, stop scrolling. Instead, look for community through social media or join a meditation group. Many support groups have been sprouting up on Facebook and Instagram. Take the opportunity to move from fear into a position of growth. I still get on social media to see how my friends are doing, but now I control what I take in. Be aware of what you are giving your attention to and channel it towards what may nourish you.

Nourish yourself

It’s unclear how long this crisis will last. To tide through this trial and others to come, we need to nourish ourselves so we can go the distance and emerge more resilient than ever.

If you need to be with others but can’t meet them, reach out to them to arrange virtual dinners or beer nights. My friends and I had a virtual dinner over Zoom, I enjoyed those two hours tremendously. We live in different states and we probably would not have thought of this idea if not for this coronavirus situation. So, get creative! Connect over virtual dance parties, create exercise challenges on social media, tag your friends and invite them to join you.

Head out to the parks and take walks. Be in and with nature. Being in nature rejuvenates me and prevents me from being overly self-absorbed. I deeply appreciate the spaciousness, fresh air and sights. Hearing the different tunes of different birds, watching the tall, thick trunks sway in the wind just calms my nervous system. I’m reminded there is a world outside of me.

This time has also given me the perfect chance to catch up on my reading list, and experiment with cooking. The more I find pockets of space to play and create, the more joy I inject into my day.

Practice gratitude

Through this period, I have also learned to appreciate what I have. Reading news about what’s happening in places like Italy, Africa, and India have humbled me extremely. I grieved and experienced powerlessness. I lived from a place of scarcity.

But all these aren’t going to help. A hungry person cannot feed another hungry person. My walks in the park have helped tremendously. Instead of merely focusing on losses or potential losses, I pay attention to what remains as well. I count my blessings and record my learnings each day, and grow abundant.

My heart is full with love, and I want to share the beauty and love with others. Now as I take walks in parks, I also recite my poems there, hoping to offer beauty and comfort to people.

Here are two poems that I retrieved through being with myself. I hope they offer you some comfort. We can ride through this together.

Blessings

Blessed I am
with every breath, every moment,
with the first light of my day
I am alive. I can still see.

Blessed I am
to be awoken by the chirping of the birds,
to the whistling of the kettle.
I am sheltered. I can still hear. 

Blessed I am
to rise with kisses and hugs from my beloved,
and breakfast prepared with love.
I am adored. I can still feel.

Blessed I am
with the company of great books and food,
and deep connections with friends and family.
I am nourished. I am full.

Blessed I am
to be walking in the park, 
enjoying the liveliness and lessons nature offers.
I am present. I am free.

Blessed, I am.

Learnings

I learned to co-exist with another human—
hold my personal space while respecting the other’s

I learned to be with myself—cry with sorrow
for the faceless who had to die alone 
and the nameless who had to grieve alone.

I learned to surrender to my powerlessness
and say in utter defeat—
I don’t know what I can do.

I learned my limits as a human being.

I learned to crack open—turn to the universe 
for guidance, and allowed life to fill me.

I learned creativity and compassion are within me
once I’m present to receive. I am abundant—
more than able to give.

I learned the importance of being 
isn’t any less than doing—a simple act—
staying at home has effects on the world.

I learned my power as a human being.