Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I get two types of tiredness, one from having too much to do and another from having basically nothing to do. The too-much-to-do kind of tiredness may be physical or psychological but I can recover from it in due time because busy periods or busy minds will never stay forever. Once the overload of work or thoughts have been cleared, my body or mind has rested sufficiently, I will be recharged and become normal again. Tired I may seem but I actually enjoy it. Hehe…I am a workaholic after all.

But when this workaholic gets hit by the nothing-to-do kind of tiredness or boredom, it can be quite frightening. It creeps up on me quietly, and before I know it, overwhelms me and I become so disoriented, transforming me into an unrecognisable zombie. I basically lose my focus in life when I get bored. When I’m not mindful and indulge in this kind of tiredness, I get sucked deeper and deeper into the black hole. This form of tiredness did hit me recently and I hate it.

Whether it’s tiredness from having too much to do or nothing to do, we can all conquer it. Why? Because our mind is stronger than what we believe it to be. Ajahn Brahm advises that we should learn to put 100% energy into the moment, then we will have 100% energy for the next moment. If we allow ourselves to become negative, we will never have that 100% energy in whatever we do. It’s the negativity that makes us tired.

By being unhappy and grumpy about how much more work we have to do, we are just psychologically making ourselves tired even before we start working on it. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I keep telling myself that I am tired, I hate what I have to do, I can’t cope with what I have to do, I really end up being tired, can’t cope and give up easily. But if I tell myself that I should just focus on the task, do what I can, give it my best shot, I end up completing the task and much faster. Yes, I may still be physically tired at the end of it but I know I will get the satisfaction that I did it, I completed the task!

Ajahn Brahm says there’s an incredible boost of energy hidden in every one of us. We’ll get this incredible boost of energy if we do everything selflessly without expecting anything in return. How true. We often feel tired when we expect something in return for our efforts. But if we get to the heart of the human condition, do everything wholeheartedly and with vitamin C, C for compassion, we are more likely to inject that extra boost of energy to accomplish the task. I think that kind of energy, I do have, the energy of happiness, of serving, of giving life meaning. It’s the energy for myself, my life that I really need to relook and uncover.

Indulgence in boredom or tiredness from having nothing to do can really inflict great damage to me and my direction in life. When I don’t know how to sit still and rest when I’m given the opportunity, I become disoriented. I must conscientiously remind myself to be more alert and sound the alarm when it creeps up on me. I can’t allow my thoughts, my mind, my life to be eaten up by boredom.

WAKE UP NOW…THIS MOMENT! Ok, ok, I can hear me…there’s no need to shout.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Are You Cooking Well in Life?

I saw a zen movie last Sunday entitled ‘How to Cook Your Life’. It was the closing movie for the Asian Buddhist Film Festival, held in Singapore for the first time. Nine movies were screened in the festival but I saw only one. Actually I had already seen two of the other movies ‘The Cup’ and ‘Shower’ during the Singapore International Film Festival a number of years back. Anyway, whether old or new movies, all the shows were sold out. Good to hear the festival was a success because that means I will get to enjoy more of such film festivals in the future.

The movie was screened at Lido 1, the biggest theatre in that cineplex. It didn’t come as a surprise to me that all the seats were filled up because it had an added attraction. The ever-popular globetrotting monk, Ajahn Brahm was also at the screening and gave a talk right after the show.

‘How to Cook Your Life’ is a documentary revolving around Zen Master Edward Espe Brown, a student of Suzuki Roshi, the revered Zen Master. In the movie, Edward explains how he practises and teaches zen in his kitchen. But what has cooking got to do with zen? Well, everything in life is zen. So how do we practise zen in the kitchen? When you’re cutting your carrots, just cut the carrots. When you’re kneading the dough, just knead the dough. When peeling potatoes, just peel the potatoes.

Don’t we often find our hands working on one thing but our mind subconsciously drifting away to some other thoughts after a while? Not just in cooking but in almost everything we do in life. Why is that so? That’s what we’re supposed to discover through the practise of mindfulness.

According to the teachers, when we cook, we are not just cooking, not just working on the ingredients and the cooking process, we are also working on ourselves. As what Ajahn Brahm said, “It’s not what you cook but how you cook it that matters.” Having the best ingredients in life does not necessarily mean we will bake the best cake. It’s the attitude that will bring about the best cake in the world.

Edward Espe Brown has been a zen practitioner for 40 years but tells us he still gets angry and experiences other kinds of feelings like impatience and frustrations in the kitchen. Why? He too is also only a human. The importance is in seeing why those feelings arise and how we manage them.

One scene in the movie that left quite a deep impression was when Edward started to tear as he was reflecting about seeing himself as the worn-out teapot in the kitchen. Like the teapots, we get scratches and hard knocks all the time in life but despite all the dents, tarnished surface and imperfections, the teapot is still a useful teapot that will continue to hold and serve tea to all.

We must practise mindfulness and learn to cook our life and not allow it to cook us. I’ve been provided with some of the best ingredients in life but somehow, I just don’t seem to be able to bake a decent cake as yet. At this present moment, I think I’m being cooked by my mind and thoughts…again. >_<

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wishes and Thoughts

When I was a child, I wanted to be an adult because only adults have the freedom to do what they want to do…or so I thought.

When I was in school, I couldn’t wait to get out of school because only then will I have the freedom to play as much as I want…or so I thought.

When I became an adult, I really thought I finally have all the freedom in the world to do what I truly want to do but how naive my thought was…I had just been handed a life sentence.

I had a wonderful childhood…but I wish I had remembered it more.

I had an unforgettable school life…but I wish I had appreciated it more.

I’ve lived 20 years of an adult’s life…I wish I had awakened a little more.

What do I wish now? To live the remaning part of my life without any wish or thought.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who Gets a Second Chance?

Last weekend, my sister-in-law had to call in the police because her 24-year-old foreign maid had been stealing from her family members. This maid has just been working for the family for about a month and within that short period took a lot of things belonging to different family members and kept them. Items such as a watch, a small diamond ring, some clothings, a belt, kids’ stationery, toy costume jewellery etc. were uncovered from her belongings. As the evidence were all there, the police had to handcuff her and take her away. I think this young maid will be charged, sent to jail and repatriated back to her country upon her release.

The first thought that appeared in my mind when I heard about her arrest was, did she borrow money to come here to work? If she did, she’s going to be in even more trouble when she goes home. Most of these foreign workers have to pay the agents commission equivalent to at least six months of their salary to get them these overseas assignments. They normally cannot afford to pay the commission so they either borrow from friends and relatives or get the agents to deduct it from their salary once they start work here. I hope this maid did not borrow from any loan sharks back home.

From those items she stole, I could tell that she wasn’t very bright. She didn’t take very expensive stuff nor any money. And how was she planning to get away with the stolen goods when she had no accomplice? She’s got no friends or relatives working here. I guess she came from some rural village and the temptation of owning all those shimmering and colourful things she had never seen or owned before in her life just got to her head.

If this was your maid, would you have called in the police or given her a second chance? My sister-in-law’s viewpoint was that she didn’t want to risk having someone she can’t trust at home alone with her three young children.

I live in a city but I long for a chance to live a simple life in some rural villages in places like Thailand. And yet there are so many people who long for a chance to work and live in Singapore. Sigh…the different wants of human beings.

Stop wanting. Just live.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Lessons to be Learnt Everywhere

Last Friday, on my way to work on the MRT, I noticed this boy with Down’s Syndrome sitting opposite me rearranging his school bag. He was a student of MINDS Special School. MINDS stands for Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, a non-government run organisation that has been helping the intellectually disabled in Singapore since 1962.

When the boy board the train, he started removing practically everything from his bag very carefully, item by item and placed them very neatly in two piles on the seat next to him. He took out a couple of exercise books, a lot of art drawings, a Spider-Man notebook, a Spider-Man drawing, a box of colour pencils and a lot of other stuff which I couldn’t identify. What caught my attention was not his disability but the calm and unhurried manner that he went about with his task. He took his own sweet time and seemed to be enjoying what he was doing, scrutinising his possessions and stacking them neatly in two equal piles.

As I was watching him carrying out his task, the train began to get crowded and I was quite sure that sooner or later someone would approach him and ask him to remove his stuff from the seat. True enough, a stern and rugged looking man in t-shirt and shorts, holding a copy of newspapers got into the train carriage and walked towards the seat. The boy looked up and the man told him to remove his items from the seat. The boy nodded and began putting his stuff back into his school bag. I was so surprised when he kept his things in exactly the same slow, systematic and unflustered manner as when he removed them. He picked up his multiple drawings carefully, one at a time, then his exercise books, then his Spider-Man drawing, then the Spider-Man notebook, then his box of colour pencils etc, etc.

By then, I was getting a bit worried as I was quite sure the man would lose his patience and yell at him to hurry up. But guess what? The man just stood there quietly watching the boy pick up his things from the seat piece by piece, one item at a time and when he saw the Spider-Man items, he asked the boy if he liked the comic character. The boy grinned at him and replied very excitedly “Ya, I like Spider-Man!” The man then asked him if he had seen the movie and the boy said he had.

After the train had gone past three MRT stations (a good five minutes), the boy finally kept everything in his bag. He had also reached his destination. He and the man said good-bye to each other and he got out from the train. The man finally could sit down to read his papers and immediately exclaimed to his companion “That boy is very neat!” And there I was smiling so brightly, having witnessed the entire incident.

Why journal this incident? One, the boy had more zen mind than me. He was so focused on his one task, nothing could distract his attention, not even when under pressure. Such strong one-pointed concentration. I often buckle under pressure and lose my concentration. I wish I could live my life in as calm and focused manner as him. Two, I judged that man by his looks but he turned out to be quite a friendly and very patient man. Three, I’m glad to be living in a country where people are tolerant and understanding towards others with physical or intellectual disabilities.

I rarely say this…but I am proud to be a Singaporean. ^_^

Friday, May 04, 2007

Some Just-for-fun Tests

I did a few of those personality tests again today. If you’re bored and need some entertainment, you can try out these three below. Umm…do take the results with a pinch of salt please.

The Shower Test Link 1
When you step into a shower, which part of the body do you wash first? I’m not going to tell you my answer here. Email me privately if you’re really curious!

Want to know which cartoon character are you? Link 2
This I can tell you. I’m a Tweety Bird! ^_^

Pooh-Piglet Psychometric Test Link 3
I’m more of a Pooh in this test. Hmmm…but the website doesn’t explain what that meant.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Different Drummers

I was a little in the blues the last few days and I found this on the net. Very interesting. How timely.

Different Drummers
If I do not want what you want,
please try not to tell me that my want is wrong.

Or if I believe other than you,
at least pause before you correct my view.

Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more,
given the same circumstances,
try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly.

Or yet if I act, or fail to act,
in the manner of your design for action,
let me be.

I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me.
That will come only when you are willing
to give up changing me into a copy of you.

I may be your spouse, your parent, your offspring, your friend, or your colleague. If you will allow me any of my own wants, or emotions, or beliefs, or actions, then you open yourself, so that some day these ways of mine might not seem so wrong, and might finally appear to you as right – for me.

To put up with me is the first step to understanding me. Not that you embrace my ways as right for you, but that you are no longer irritated or disappointed with me for my seeming waywardness. And in understanding me you might come to prize my differences from you, and, far from seeking to change me, preserve and even nurture those differences.

– Extracted from Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
however measured or far away.

— Henry David Thoreau

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