“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Thomas Homer-Dixon
30th December. I'm two days away - along with the rest of you - from embarking on the journey of 2018. On quick review of 2017, I feel the Zen saying "everything whole; nothing lacking" doesn't quite fit into this past year's review. For the phrase indicates that everything is as it should be, as is, without needing fixing. Recapping 2017, I felt the world needed a lot of fixing. True, I've had many individual blessings that I must count; mostly, coming into a job where I'm teaching content I've always wanted to (mindfulness), and being able to serve others whilst navigating the unprecedented pastures of Mindfulness and Life Skills in modern tertiary education.
But on a more collective scale, after witnessing the portrayal of negative world events (politically, environmentally, socially) via news media, social media, and reinstated through more casual conversations with friends and academic experts, I've felt sad because it appears that things at first glance are all moving backwards. And perhaps they are. But a reunion with a past spiritual mentor and friend of mine - Ricci-Jane Adams - during my current visit to Australia, helped remind me of the power of perception, and my innate ability to alter it, no matter how dismal external events appear.
Upon further reflection back on the year, my reflective attention fell on how cynical I'd let my perception become; I felt over the year my perception slide into that malaise that so often accompanies the "aging" or "maturing" analytical viewpoints that can easily arrive on the tail end of joining a corporate work force; it seems that same analytical reasoning becomes the predominant method of transaction in daily working circumstances and, I lost quickly, a lot of my more positive creative imagination. I've already made a vow that in the new year I won't lose sight of it again. And while I'm very proud to be an educator, working on new "Life Skills" courses, being part of a large neoliberal conglomerate makes you ask big questions, mostly around the future of, well, the world...and its youth. After all, in education you spend all our time working with youth who are the future of our planet. You feel their worries, fears, hopes and dreams; see their big visions and multiple blind spots.
The bigger question that arose for me during this period was: "why do I feel like I'm living in a world that's so broken?"And a sub-question to that being: "why do the positive people seem to leave too early and the negative ones tend to stick around too long?" Likely, all of us have asked this at one point, and perhaps you have also asked similar question in this past year. But Ricci-Jane was right in that what we see in the world at the end of the day is so often what we want to see. Feeling broken inside will make us begin to externally perceive our world as broken too. And vice versa. There is great power in perception, and there is great power in us to change our perception. And I for one would really like to enter 2018 with an altered perception (still realistic, of course!) that catches the power of people's potential, and the positive movements grass-roots communities on this planet that are working towards an awakened society. Perhaps this chaos in action that I was so focused on really is divine order re-aligning, laying solid foundations for us to awaken from unconscious slumber. Time will tell, but in the meantime, I think we all owe ourselves a positive entry point into 2018. Here's to mine! And here's to yours.
Happy New Year!
So I'm here.
To all my friends in Vancouver - I made it! To all my friends elsewhere, I've moved country (again) and that will likely come as no surprise to many of you.
Two weeks ago, I took up residence just outside Kuala Lumpur, embarking on a new career path at Taylor's University as a Mindfulness and Life Skills facilitator. My role will be to design and spearhead mindfulness-based initiatives in higher ed. with the hopes of enhancing emotional well-being for students; this uni has graciously offered me the platform to do so. What that looks like is slowly beginning to take form. I'll keep you posted.
This blog serves a few purposes:
1) To keep ME writing .
2). To keep YOU updated on my life over here. As most of you are over 'there' (Canada, Singapore, Australia).
3). And to (hopefully) demonstrate how one can bring contemplative practice into even the most gritty of urban environments - no joke, this city is a beast.
My original blog was called the Tao Of Now, created some years ago now: the intention of it was to demonstrate how one could integrate contemplative practices into their city lives, without retreating to a monastery or hermitage.
(FYI: Contemplative practices are activities that shift our mind's habitual chatter and bring us back to the present moment. Mindfulness is but one of those contemplative practices - one that I'm most interested in.)
This blog serves to continue the lineage of the Dao of Now - albeit - in an entirely new form, in an entirely new environment, and in an entirely new era of my life (no longer a student, now a working professional, or something like that).
But before I get into the hows of practicing mindfulness in the streets of K.L, allow these pictures below to set the context:
Juxtaposed to the surrounding cicada-song and audible exhales of ujjayi breath from fellow practitioners, is the crashing and scraping of construction, the distant whirring of traffic, punctuated with car horns and the occasional soaring of a jumbo jet overhead. Although I'm focused on the asanas (yoga postures), I'm still able to zoom out momentarily and witness the intersection that is occurring between city and contemplative practice.
It's Saturday and I'm in the downtown core of KLCC with a group of expats participating in a monthly event called 'Yoga in the Park.' We are grouped in a circle formation, practicing postures on wet muddy ground in the lush central park of KLCC, and all around us are the towering sky scrapers of the CBD - some of the tallest in the world (see petronas). Against the cacophony of a churning city, I can feel my breath begin to settle, my body opening and receiving the intense morning sun, as sweat pools on my mat below. I settle into a seated posture and cross my legs, ready to be led through a guided meditation; I feel how my body, only recently buzzing from the busyness of the city centre, has soothed itself and I can trust in my ability to breathe again. As I follow my inhale and exhale, I think to myself, "perhaps this is harmonizing with the grit of the city?"
But what does that phrase even mean? It means that although I'm embedded in this urban chaos, full of distractions and electricity, I'm responding (or at least trying to) with a soft, centred heart, and a full breath - breath by breath. I'm using a centering or 'contemplative' practice to stop myself from bouncing off the concrete walls of consumer-driven insecurity, and instead, meeting the sharp edges of the city with a gentle and yielding state of mind. This is why, I personally need mindfulness practice in my daily life - for there's nothing wrong with city-living; in fact our cities need us more than ever. But, our cities need us to respond with a stable, creative, and loving state of mind; one that stops us from being devoured by our fast-paced consumer culture.
We finish up our class and head to Chinoz for good coffee and conversation. It so happens that on this same day, thousands of Malaysians have taken to the streets of downtown K.L to protest against the atrocious corruption existent in the current Malaysian government. The thousands that represent a suppressed political opposition - Bersih - are dressed in yellow-shirts and carry signs; as we sit drinking and chatting, I watch the mass ebb and flow their way past the KLCC fountain, emanating, to my surprise, not anger, but a non-violent call for radical change, delivered through smiles, lively music, and camaraderie between the old and young.
I'm fascinated, as I watch them: alive, awake and creating their very own 'pop up' sangha (contemplative community) right here in the middle of the city. And as I watch, I realize they too are practicing urban yoga on this hot, sunny morning - it's just their postures look a little different to ours.