https://www.behance.net/gallery/5271877/Cotton-Candy-Watercolor-Portrait

cotton candy

in greed i choked on a sugary bead
clouded in your stale cotton candy
the same succulent pink saccharine
rushed heavenly sirens into my brain
pumped sweet venom into my veins
bursting
into a charred blossom between our hands

a crooked offering
to the god of meant-to-be

in mercy
i pluck its petals from their dry nectarine
half-questioning, half-praying
- in old chanting;

exhaust this fire,
run out this spark,
unchill my spines,
unthaw my heart,
love me,
love me not,
love me,
love me not

T.

27.05.14.

(image source: Behance)

267601-Broken_Chord_on_a_Monochrome_Scale

Broken Chord Party

To all the boys I’ve ever loved.

The one that was well-forbidden, the not-so well hidden,
one that came with a cover-up kit, one that came with benefits,
the only one that would have been, the many that never could be and the never will be.

You, are my Great Gatsby party.

My glorious shower of gold confetti. My swimming pool of pearls and silk.
My intoxication point of entry. And my tipsy burlesque dance routine.

With you, are puzzle pieces of my 26-year history.
The atlas of my chest, the geography of my belly.
The calculation formula for my laughter crease. And the residue of our explosive chemistry.

Naturally, you, are my mother’s worry.
My best friend’s curiosity. And my curiosity’s best friend.
Turning into my insecurity’s soul mate. My honesty’s bed. My fragility’s thin blanket.

My innocence’s end.

Through you, comes the gravity of my greatest fallings.
The microscopic view of my heartache anatomy.

And the verses of my richest literary piece.

Containing anecdotes of pleading the universe for an exchange between my two broken heart pieces and a pair of boxing gloves for fate-punching,
Multiple reconstructions of plots I had written around your dreams,
Countless color-camouflaging and character-breaking in and out of your skins,

And a repertoire of techniques for weaving you back into the story without compromising a happy ending.

Yes, you, are the memory-to-be of my youth parenting feat.
Of the moment I catch salt water on my baby girl’s cheek. Telling her that

“I’m sorry, honey, that you’ve inherited your mother’s hopeless romantics and slightly high-strung antics,
that there exist moments of us mistaking the frantic seasons of living for a soul apocalypse.
But, baby, never let anything but Life break through your lips.

Paint my fingerprint on your veins
as you take cover in the rain, curl up between warm morning rays.
If need be, travel the courageous road of peace-making,
or my less tactful route of poetry or song writing.

But never, end it on low C.”

Yes, to all the boys I’ve ever loved.

Despite all the numbing grips, splitting plucks and piercing bows,
your passing harmony’s left a refining touch on this instrumental front
that stands between the world’s sharp cold and my ribcage bones.

Behind which, every fibre of my muscle knows that our rise-and-falls
have ultimately composed me, so sophisticatedly,
that every chamber of my lungs knows I never want to leave no room for a symphony
that in the end moves me.

Despite of my bleeding fingers and cut strings.

The moment the light comes and the baton’s raised,
I’d play it all over again.
In gentler chord progression, more delicate rhythm.

To the first-part finale.
To the this-is-it, the soon-to-be, the always-will-be.

Yes, Amen. To the end of a grand search party.

 
T

14.12.13. – 16.12.13.

There’d be no ‘Us’, otherwise

Between you and I, there used to be an Us

There used to be a small room for air between our singlet fabrics as you led me on a waltz to Sinatra

There was a hardback Pinocchio book as you taught me how to pronounce the English ‘r’

Countless drops of rain when Mom had said that it was okay to play outside

And the back of my bicycle seat before you let go of your grip and release me pedaling forward slightly out of balance

 
But much to your reluctance, I had to grow up

I had to dance my own battle through reality’s weather with no one to say ‘I got your back’

And I had to start choreographing my own belief system since I found that the sky can shine and rain at the exact same time

So you had to regain your grip,

At first because you feared my losing control, but then because you couldn’t deal with my not asking permission to claim my own soul,

With realizing that I was never yours

 
And thus, began the loss of Us,

The crossing of the starting line of your unchallenged authority versus my conditioned suppressive apathy,

Of your screaming rage outside my door versus my remembering old jokes trying not to open a gateway of tears,

Of your timeless reasoning fallacy versus my premature rebuttal when ‘I can’t take this’ has built up like grey clouds, and ‘I’ve had enough’ bursts out like thunders with lightning,

Because you know what the problem is?

You never let anybody tell you otherwise.

You never let anybody tell you, “You know what, just let her go.

‘Cause if history ever tells us anything at all, it’s that force and control never result in love.

When you don’t want otherwise.

You want to be the one, who gives her away on her wedding day

To be the one, who gets to face the groom and say,

‘You know these arms have held her from within the first hour that she was born,
and the same way they felt her first breaths they will hold you at your last gasps within the first hour you ever hurt her to the bones.’

Followed by an I’m-just-joking-(but-not-really) bittersweet laugh.

But then you wouldn’t be at peace otherwise.”

The way peace has been erased from my teenage heart since the day I found that your approval stamp is only valid for wanting the things you want,

That your acceptance letter is only sent in the event of having convictions which you’ve certified ‘halal‘.

And you don’t want that.

You want a lifetime worth of father-daughter conversations that don’t sum up in your trial questioning and my failed legal defending;

That don’t end in your stating verdicts, laying down laws, and my running away like a fugitive.

I don’t want this fight.

And I don’t want my walking back with my ears constantly standing up to detect your ‘I disagree’,

My heels on stand-by mode to turn the other way around just so I could find the next stop where chains don’t bound me just to be.

And mostly, I don’t want my slaving my heart to try to embrace you freely because it shouldn’t be that hard.

To say, ‘I love you Dad’.

Because you’re the first person next to Mom who embraced me into life and whispered my welcome notes through the words of God,
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.”

And God, I’ve loved that life.

 
Maybe ever since then I’ve listened to too much and invested faith in too many other Gods.

And I know that you despise my justification of needing to take off my blind so I can capture the whole image of our existence, unified.

And I know that it’s easier to put me in a box and label it ‘astray, and therefore reroute’;

Tightly slip my worn-out innocent childhood wool cap down my 20-something ‘been there-seen that’ scalp.

So you can remind yourself that there was a point in time where you felt that I was owned.

Because I slept under your roof, and edged away with my spoon – your spoon – the broccolis I was supposed to chew down from the plates which you bought from the same bank account you drained to put me through school.

I swear, I understand the amount of what I may not be able to repay.

But it doesn’t mean that I owe you the pledge of where I choose to pray,

The lease for where I choose to rest my head,

The liberty to be my own Man.

 
But maybe, what I do owe, is the choice of which side I play for,

What I exhaust my lifeline on,

And what I'd die for the sake of.

And if it matters, to all that, the answer is Kindness.

The answer is Love.

The answer is Life.

At least, I try.

 
So cherish me.

Not because we spell out the same letters for a last name,

But because no spell can be cast upon the same kind of persistence we both act on behalf of our ideals.

Treasure me.

Not because we're identifiable by the same DNA make-up,

But because our carbon dioxide are made up by the same heart that would take a child into our homes and raise them as our own.

And don't condemn me. For believing in Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Buddha all at the same time.

Ring a bell in me, when I forget,

Light the fire in me, when I start to slow down,

In the leading with compassion, with tolerance, and shared wisdom.

 
But most of all, see me, the way I walk me,

Hear me, the way I speak me – not the way you want to make me, or the way I can never be – because, there's no other me otherwise.

And there'd be none of Us left, otherwise.

 
Tya

27.03.13.

Balinese_Christmas_large

Shall I Compare Thee to a (Ordinary) Christmas Day?

“A stegosaurus in the forest munching on some hay,
Lay down to snooze in a bed of ooze and sadly passed away.
Her body changed and rearranged as she sank beneath the soil,
And over time she turned to slime and then she turned to oil.”

~ Tom Chapin

 
That’s not a blog entry-opening ‘inspirational quote’ line. That’s a verse from Tom Chapin’s ‘R-E-C-Y-C-L-E’ song that wrapped up my Christmas Caroling session at work this year.

Yes, this year’s Carol was no church choir. If anything it would’ve passed more as a heartfelt effort at indoor rain dance gathering. And a sweetly politically correct one at that. With everyone sitting in a circle creating impromptu ethnic tunes to ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ using all the traditional forms of percussion and tambourine you can name, and at one point resting to hum the second verse of ‘Silent Night’ (because you don’t just make people say ‘Jesus’ in a non-Christian-majority multicultural setting), the only thing missing was for someone to go dancing around a center-piece bonfire.

But then again, hardly anything about this year’s Christmas was a lot traditional. Apart from the rain-dance of a Christmas Carol, the distance from Home and thus the absence of Family presence, there was this year’s tree.

xmastree (2)

If you have been in a country that hugely celebrates the Chinese New Year festivity, this tree would probably remind you more of angpaos than Christmas stockings. And any random small convenience shop owner could walk in to my school library and confidently say they’ve got a better (read: more seasonally appropriate) tree than ours. But I beam at the sight of it the same way that the woman who’s responsible for this one would.

Nah, I still beam brighter than that. Maybe ’cause hers costs $4.2 million.

 
At the two high school boys who were too cool to admit that they’d rather cut out strips of green paper crepes, fold paper cranes, and crumple up cotton ball pieces into fake snow falls, than slack off on their Macs during study periods. At their insistence on keeping ‘Jingle Bells Rock’ on repeat on account it was pretty much the only Christmas Carol they were familiar with, while rejoicing in the spirit of making fun of my origami skills.

 
And the days leading up to December 25 were far from the touch of fraternity. For they were spent in intentional isolation for a self-service wish-fulfilling uninterrupted reading time in the little town of Ubud; cafe-hopping, round-town push-biking, used books shop raging, Julie Otzuka’s ‘When the Emperor Was Divine‘ and Anita Desai’s ‘Diamond Dust‘-demolishing, organic meal feasting, and meditational paddyfield strolling, while being shortly interluded by a lively and mind-opening encounter with a couple of South African and French legal experts who managed to get me all fired up about their TED talk-material Integrative Law Movement.

 
And yet as I sat in a half-occupied hall waiting for Christmas Eve’s midnight mass to begin, I couldn’t help to smile in the overcoming of a sudden heart-warming joy at the thought of it all.

When I had found myself one night earlier in December quietly crying on my bed in a somewhat fetal position – having just been hit by the notion that I wouldn’t have the same ‘perfect’ traditional endless-company Christmas I had last year – it didn’t occur to me that this year’s would awaken me to a whole new way of music-experiencing in the midst of a non-traditional Caroling where music was made from nothing but simple technology, communal energy and natural synergy.

That it would re-energize me with at least a half year’s worth of inspiration for more creativity and humanity-changing action-taking through a friendly lone bookpacking trip.

Or that it would see to it that I know and understand, that nothing in life is a consolation prize, when you put love and the joy in people’s hearts before a perfect display of pride.

 
That same night in the hall, as I wondered how those several days – despite their resulting in deep contentment and satisfaction – have honored the meaning of the very season I was celebrating (as I hadn’t exactly been participating in the traditional giving and sharing practice as my popular culture has been dictating for years), and started further wondering what it even is that I was celebrating, the Pastor’s sermon answered me with a story.

Of an ordinary day, in an ordinary place, when an ordinary family welcomed the birth of a child. A child who grew in an ordinary time, under ordinary circumstances, among ordinary people. A child who, despite his ordinary upbringing, became a man of extraordinary presence, extraordinary actions, and extraordinary love.

He then reminded us of another story, of a hundred over other similar stories. Of the hundred over people who sat at the congregation that night. Of our own births, of our own ordinary circumstances, and of our own innate capacity to become Extraordinary.

Of the underlying message that Christmas, is the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus as much as it is of ours. It is the remembrance of the beginning of his extraordinary power as much as it is of ours.

 
The realization of which, both brought my body comforting warmth and trembling silence. At the thought of what a whole year’s worth of retreating into a reflective and restorative solitary has brought for me this year, the dawning of a slightly more refined self, with a slightly more refined mind and a refined heart; a new birth.

But also, at the sudden overwhelming realization of what that carries; the weight of my presence, the immense value of its mere existence. But most importantly, at the current absence of its substantial worth to the world, the remaining abundance still of its extraordinary capacity.

 
Some have said and believed that December this year marks the ending of an existence, an era, a something. I’m not sure about an ending, and I don’t know that much about the universe. But I believe in beginnings, and I know only as much as I have seen. And what I have seen, is a birth of mine own. And apparently, in our no longer ordinary circumstances, that counts for something. So I guess, I’ll be damned if I don’t make it the only thing it’s meant to be; Extraordinary.

 
Merry Christmas and Happy New Beginning =)

Tya

 

“Ar-Ee-Cee… Why-Cee-El-Eeee.. That’s the waaay… It’s supposed to beee.. The Earth recycleeees.. And so do weee.. Ar-Ee-Ceee! Why-Cee-El-Eeeeeee…!!”

shop.redcheeksfactory.com

When Life Gives You Lemons… Or Men.

“Without hindrances the mind that seeks enlightenment may be burnt out.
So an ancient once said, ‘Attain deliverance in disturbances.’”

~ Kyong Ho

 
 
So early on this year, motivated by a friend’s successful 2011 New Year’s resolution of alcohol abstinence, I decided to un-mythify the urban legend that is the New Year’s resolution in my own life story.

For the year 2012, I resolved not to become – under any circumstances – romantically involved with anyone.

For the heart-crippled lifetime hopeless romantic champion, it had become necessary – if not must-ecessary – and well, about time really.

 

 
 
By past mid year I have managed to keep myself romance-free without even (seriously) falling for interested parties I was crossing paths with. In addition to charting my career, I was channeling my energy into recovering from my last heartbreak properly (rebound-free), developing my emotional management ability, deepening my spirituality, and strengthening every aspect of my inner life that had long needed re-screwing, re-oiling and big-time upgrading.

And into the third-quarter of the year, I hit the jackpot; a claw-craned soft little fluffy plush of Peace.

 
Not the kind that stays for only the 10-15 minute of my meditation practice. Or the moments of comfort from finding my long-held beliefs affirmed while reading books about the Zen philosophy. Or the quiet deep appreciation of watching my self-created anxieties being washed off by cooling mountain waterfalls or sunset-lit seas.

The kind that was made hungry but not restless by staying in quietly the evenings after work with only a book and a cup of tea. The kind that was made lazy but not impatient by the tedious step-by-steps of dish-washing, floor-sweeping and clothes-ironing. The kind that was made hopeful but not insecure by waiting for a plate of spinach quiche and a glass of water alone at a restaurant while surrounded by couples courting.

It was nice.

 
 
But then you know, there’s always our good friend Life, with its priceless sense of humor.

Just four weeks away from the completion of my New Year’s resolution, it decided that it would probably be fun to throw a chemistry-sparking, smile-inducing and thought-stimulating (sight-pleasing) man down my committed-to-not-committing way.

 

I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with this.

 
And most unappreciatedly, poke my newly-found Peace with accelerated heart beats and unanticipated countdown in the preceding minutes to our meetings, with the involuntary replays of our conversation and eye contact automatic recordings, and (most unwelcomedly) the uninvited thoughts of his imaginary presence in my quiet book-accompanied evenings, my tedious dish-washing routines and my lone dining while being entertained by live salsa dancing.

 
It bothered me not that I was developing these feelings again particularly, or that it may be threatening the ‘purity’ of my 2012 resolution victory. It bothered me that the state of being in the present I had just recently gained and was working hard to maintain has been so quickly hijacked by these daydreamings that leave me instead in the illusions of the past and delusions of the future.

Also, it frankly bothered me that I have now basically been unwillingly entered into a contract that indeterminably bounds me to getting disappointed – if not hurt – by nonreciprocity.
In the words of Fran Kubilik in The Apartment, “Why do people have to love people anyway?” In the words of mine, “Ugh.”

 

Or, what he says.

Or, what he says.

 
So I started wondering, and in the next few days trying, if I could stop myself from (seriously) falling for this guy.

 
With the assistance of a couple of friends and a (quarter of a) book I’ve been reading, I came away with three realizations that have led me to where I currently stand on this matter of the heart:

 
 
1. In the beginning of his book The Power of Now, the first realization that author Eckhart Tolle had, which became the starting point of his journey to enlightenment, is described in this thought:

“Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

In my case, if I am uncomfortable with the development of these romantic feelings, there must be two of me: the ‘I’, and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ do not approve of engaging in this one-sided teenage love affair.

So instead of positioning myself as a person who is helplessly crushing on this helplessly attractive man, I position myself as a person who is aware of the cupid festivity that is currently going on inside of me and well, knows better.

And here’s the difference. In this beautiful reality, I am not the process; I am merely the overseer of the process.

 
And what happens is that now that this commotion has become separate from my Being, the romantic thoughts and illusions no longer become an ongoing obsession/compulsion that takes over the present moment. They just, kinda mind themselves running around in the background.

Plus, watching yourself going all gooey girly on a handsome brown-eyed guy just takes away all the poetic seriousness of it and just makes it all look kinda cute and silly. Which also helps, immeasurably.

 

 
Until, of course, the time arrives to come face to face again with the person. Which becomes a slightly different story and leads to point number 2.

 
 
2. You’ve probably by now come across all sorts of pop psych articles discussing researches that have shown how the act of smiling can help improve the smiling person’s mood and influence their positivity.

That is because of course the relationship between our outright behavior and our internal feelings is not a one-way street. Our emotions can be affected by our actions as much as our actions can be affected by our emotions.

And thank goodness for that; because if there is anything I owe my being saved from making a fool out of myself to, is keeping an all-pro poker face.

 
poker face

 
Acting neutral in the presence of a person who is already directing all the blood from my head to my heart actually helps in tricking my system into believing that all these ‘sparks’ and ‘butterflies’ are not as big of a deal as my mind has made them out to be. It moderates the intensity of the emotions experienced, and (for me personally) allows for the ability to keep a straight head and maintain a conversation in which the things that come out of my mouth actually make sense.

 
 
3. Now to address the ultimate question of whether or not it is indeed possible for us to intentionally (and completely) stop ourselves from falling in love. Well, personally, up until now I have yet to stumble upon the off button for having feelings for someone I’ve become attracted to, if that is in fact achievable in all its literal sense.

But what I have found is the adjusting knob that functions to moderate the effect falling for someone has on my state of being and daily functioning, which is attainable by

a) the awareness (and acceptance) that ‘falling in love’ is not the uncontrollable phenomenon that pop love songs and sitcoms have us believe it to be (yes, even for the worst ‘hopeless romantic’s), and

b) the ability to separate my observing self from my experiencing self, and therefore to have control over my thoughts and emotions so as to keep myself from committing ill-calculated actions which consequences I may not be ready for.

 
So then what about the inevitable disappointment fall of event? The ‘liability to get hurt’?

 
Well, in all unsurprising honesty, such is life. And its knack for signing up you up for things you don’t even ask to be signed up for. Even when they come in the shape of bad lemons you can’t make a decent jugful of lemonade out of.

Some say it makes you stronger, smarter, whatever-er. For me, though, sometimes, it happens just to teach you how to laugh it off. And share its sense of humor.

 
Easier said than done, surely. But done-able, notwithstanding. And since I’m finding it pretty funny already,

 

ha.. ha..!

 
 
Ultimately, it is quite the happy ending for the former shameless lifetime hopeless romantic champion. A New Year’s resolution is kept dignified, and a claw-craned soft little fluffy plush of Peace is restored. And everybody wins.

Except maybe a guy out there who may, somewhere along the line, inexplicably fall for me. In which case, God help whoever that might be.

 
 
Tya

 
 

“One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice inside your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

flickr

From the Pipe-Dream Whisperer

“Nature is not a place to visit.

It is home.”

~ Gary Snyder

 
 
So says the bamboo-framed glass board in the bamboo-framed classroom. In blue ink.

The teacher in cargo shorts and light blue polo shirt. Who probably wrote it.

 
My mother’s voice through her uterine walls.

My Mother’s voice.

“… It is home.” In blue ink.

In blue vibrations of my amniotic sac.

 
The doctor-guest speaker, who carried a goodies-filled suitcase and didn’t want to be formal, sat with the six year-olds like a story-teller.

 
Four things.

 
The intelligence of my half-grown peanut-sized brain to pick up my mother’s troubled sighs.

The incredible resilience of my fluid airbag.

The indomitable beating of my little heart.

Of my young thumb-sized heart.

 
Look across the room. If you can get to just one person. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

“… Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 
Slideshow.

Joint little hands around the world.

Unconscious hopeful emotions.

Joint little fingers clenched around the placentaic sense of my mother’s love.

Unconscious of hopeful emotions.

 
One person.

 
Oohs. Claps. Thank yous and smiles.

Door-less bamboo-framed classrooms. Pathway made of rocks.

Uncompromised trees. Irrepressible scent of manure. Non-soundproofed chirping of insects. Uncovered eyes of earth mounds.

 
The universe has demanded my attention.

My hope-unconscious attention.

 
But I’m not ready.

 
 
Not ready.

When the universe has demanded my presence.

My slimy, umbilical cord-ed, half-conscious presence.

 
“… It is time.” In blue vibrations of where-has-it-gone?

My mother’s voice. Through the lit end of a vigorously dilating tunnel.

 
Suddenly a person.

Reporting for life duty.

By the intelligence of my upside-down fist-sized brain. The resilience of my mother’s strands of fibromuscular tubular tract. The indomitable beating of our hearts. Our young novice hearts.

 
Not ready. Readied.

 
 
… Earth mounds. Pathway made of rocks. A Bali starling bird.

Suddenly a wasp.

A mustard yellow-bottomed wasp. Heedfully passing – fly walking? (two unused legs, upright-posture floating)

- on an invisible crossroad.

An unspoken mutual conception.

Because, one civilization.

 
The freedom-aspiring Bali starling birds. The rescue-campaigning orangutans. The attorney-seeking tarsiers.

The trees, hacked bloodless at their legs. The ocean, overfed with over-processed leftover diet plan. The fungi, single-handedly healing in their first-aid camp.

The fetuses that grow behind uterine walls. The little people that grow with little knowns. The humans that grow a memory loss. Of their mothers. Of their Mother.

 
 
… The universe has demanded my attention.

My palm-sweating, stomach-queasy, helplessly-conscious attention.

Of no more ‘them-and-us‘s.

 
“…It is time.”

My Mother’s voice.

 
Through the intelligence of a pipe-dream whisperer doctor. The indomitable spirit of an eager 14-year-old boy. The indomitable springtime spirit of joint little hands around the world. The gut-wrenching resilience of the mercilessly defiled ground which they – we – are standing on.

 
Hope. Regrown.

Because of one person.

Heart. Strong.

Because we are all that close.

Home. Common.

We’ve forgotten we belong. To live for.

 
 
Suddenly one queasy-stomached, belly-twisted person,

With an intelligent cantaloupe-sized brain. The most resilient-bodied of a Mother. An indomitable beating heart. An indomitable newborn fighting heart,

Readied.

Reporting for Life duty. Right here. At Home.

 
 
Tya

 
photoshd.wordpress.com

 
 

“The sun shines not on us, but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”

~ John Muir

 
 
Written in response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight on November 26, 2012, a meeting with Dr. Alicia Kennedy from the Jane Goodall Institute Australia and Dr. Ating from Dr. Ating Foundation at Green School Bali on November 22, 2012, and the message of Jane Goodall on March, 2002.

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The God of Alone Things

“Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.”

~ Winston Churchill

 
 
Sitting alone at a table on the patio of a deli along Danau Tamblingan Street in Sanur, cooling off with a glass of cinnamon caramel ice coffee in the company of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things on a weekend afternoon, it would have never occurred to me 12 years ago, that I would be so happy, wholeheartedly, being on my own.

 

 
 
I was never a stranger to the world of being alone. For whatever reason life chose to give me plenty of chances to grow up a lot solo.

Like my years in high school as a socially ostracized teenager first time living away from home, my first two years in university in another country as both a foreign third-culture kid and a fugitive of my own previous life choices without a clear point of social circle, and my several post-schooling months as a returning-’home’ fresh graduate with a cut-short physical contact to (finally) a freshly-built strong support system.

 
While adaptation is a rather natural reaction necessary for survival, appreciation never came quite as well-automatized.

Despite the fact that the idea of me spending free evenings by myself frequenting art galleries, concert halls, cafes that offer free sessions to pick up salsa dancing, and all sorts of places encountered by chance that accommodate peaceful writing had come to be seen as rather unusual by everyone else but me, the act of it was still moments I was secretly half-vexed by because I saw them as the unfortunate result of my own prematurely developed independence and evolved lack of urgent need to constantly surround myself with people.

 
 
But now as an emerging adult with yet another life contract as a solo-sailing person with no local roots to belong, finding myself one evening at the studio-cafe where I go for my weekly guided meditation, striking up a lively conversation with a foreign music student who had just gotten off his open-mic session, I was awakened to the realization of the magic of the side of life I’ve been privileged to be shown so much of.

 
 
The beautiful souls I’ve crossed path and made continuously growing connections with because there is no axis I revolve around and no orbit I’m bound by,

the colorfully festive affair of diverse passions and skill sets I’ve developed because I see no need to wait for an interested company to board along the ship and jump freely into the water with,

the stockpile of courage and coping tricks I’ve accumulated because many a growing-up’s biggest challenges I overcome with limited external support,

the depth of insight I’ve arrived at because there is no construct to limit how much I can question, how far I can stretch my perception, how whole I can unify my understanding of the world.

 
Those are the blessings with which I know now solitary exists.

 
 
Unlike the way I used to believe and the way Google image search results seem to perceive, ‘being alone’ is not a ‘problem’ that needs solving, or worse yet, a condition that needs sympathizing.

It is merely a reality that needs enlivening.

As much as company, Solitary is, a gift. Of life-sustaining peace, of deeply-rooted love, of impeccable growth.

 
 
Are there times where I find myself wishing I was sharing a dinner table with my closest friends, listening to the November rain with my sisters and brother, or enjoying a breezy stroll with a significant other?

Undeniably.

Do I wish hard enough and dwell on it long enough to sacrifice the rich blessings of moments being on my own?

Honestly? Not anymore. Happily.

 
So finally, thank you, Solitary. Wholeheartedly.

 
 
Tya

 

 
 

“And when you get the choice, to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”

scene-outside-a-third-class-japanese-brothel-at-night_i-G-45-4582-5MODG00Z

Three Young Monks Were Sent to a Brothel…

(A Zen fable for today, taken from the book Zen Fables for Today)

 
 
To a brothel the controversial Zen master took three students, paid the madam, and announced to the startled youths,
“I will see you tomorrow after the third bell in the Zendo [meeting hall].”

 
Next morning after the class assembled, the master quizzed the three monks one by one with the question,
“What lesson did you take from this experience?”

 
“Unlike certain others I learned that I can rise above desires of the flesh. I made the woman sleep on the floor,” announced the first.

 
“I consciously resolved to have intercourse but for only one reason,” said the second, “to prove that I could treat this woman not as an object, not as something separate from myself, but as an integral part of my person. In all truth I tried repeatedly and was unable to achieve that elevated state of mind – five-and-a-half times.”

 
The third young monk began, “My objective was to know a woman truly by being one with her, hiding nothing – not even my heart.

We talked and made love and talked and made love until we could do neither anymore and we went to sleep like nested spoons. I discovered how lonely I have been and must now reconsider my commitment to a celibate life and this monastery.”

 
“What lesson should we have taken?” the class asked in unison.

 
“No lesson,” said the master with a shrug. “Other than what you teach yourselves. No teacher other than experience.”

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Off the Camera: On Experiencing Life in HD

“Can any of you recall a time when you were confronted with a scene of such spectacular beauty?
That it took you outside of yourself into a place of great serenity, maybe a rainbow, a mountain range, a valley, a sea, anything…

 

 
 
So one day I went to a beach and watched the day turn into night. The sunset wasn’t the best part.

 
 
In the evening of Saturday last week after my weekly session with Matthew, my ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver dropped me off at the Dhyana Pura beach in Seminyak.

 
With my loyal backpack and sandals, and a piece of peanut butter ball in an over-sized paper bag I’d picked up from a nearby organic restaurant, I situated myself on the best seat in the house;

an empty spot right in the face of the 5.30 PM sun, warmly surrounded by vendors, romance-seeking couples, vacationing families, and men with their dogs and Frisbees.

 
A little past 6 PM, I watched as the sun gradually lowered itself down into, what as far as my eyes could see is, the end of the Bali sea.
Its rays at first blinding my eyes and turning all that was in front of it into shadows; but then slowly and gracefully, extracting a trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights and reluctant gradating blue darkness all at the same time.

 
And for a moment just right before it disappears, you’d almost swear that you could see, just below the sun, a transparent formation of exotic gates, statues and palace-like buildings – like a defined outline of an ethereal city -

which may have been the clouds, but what I choose to believe to be the glimpse of a neighboring universe discreetly revealing its existence.

 
 
And just when I thought I’d seen all that the sunset had to offer, the beach started to clear off.

The romance-achieving couples walked away hand-in-hand, the vendors retired carrying away their bags, the vacationing families wrapped up their last poses and packed up their cameras.

 
I picked up my bag and sandals, and walked towards the shore. And once the gurgling ocean waters have reached my toes, I stopped and buried my feet in the sand like how my father used to teach me to do when I was small.

 
 
I stood there and followed with my eyes the trail of yellow-orange-pink-purple rays of light that was further radiating from the arc where the sun had just taken its bow, freshly dyeing the sky and uncovering the layers of heaven above all at the same time.

 
I dipped my hand into the silk-surfaced water and watched the waves diving in, their white foams gently swaying in and cradling against my open palm. The whitest of whites. The clearest of little tiny bubbles.

 
I looked around at the two men who were still throw-catching their Frisbee, at two other friends waiting for the water to rise and lift up their surfboards, and a boy who was half-swimming half-splashing just a few feet away from where I was a witness to it all.

 
I looked back towards the ocean. At tides vibrantly crashing into the shore, water eagerly creeping up towards dry land, dropping off fizzing white foams and quickly running back into the sea as tadpole-shaped glimmering tiny particles on orchestrated spot lights.

 
Everything moved in the sharpest of motions, with a glistening touch of the faintest yellow golden glow.

 
 
All, a part of what the sun had set to arise: This Life, live, in HD.

 
 
And that Life, ever so unconditionally, basked me in a sudden overwhelming embrace of its beautiful serenity and gravitated me to my knees.

 
I reached towards the seams between the beach and its sea, and grabbed a handful of sand just to let them slip off right through my fingers again.

I swept in and around a few more handfuls, letting the surface of my skin rejoice in the finely-textured carpet of velvety pixie dust beneath me with a dance.

I observed carefully as little lumps of moistened grains took shape, the way each one fell and merged itself back into earth, in a most elegant display of obedience, phasing from a lighter to a darker shade of gray.

 
 
The grayest of gray. The whitest of white. The most yellow-orange-pink-purple of yellow-orange-pink-purple lights. The finest of fine texture. The most luminous of glow. The most visible of the smallest particles.

 
 
Suddenly in those moments I was gone. My ego, the self that knew I was me, was carried off.

The sweetest momentary absence of the soul.

 
I became but a small atom that made up only an insignificant portion of the entire universe.

 
One with the world.

 
 
As the sky grew dimmer and the watch lights lit on, I gave my hand to the smooth oscillations of the ocean and let it memorize all that I’d been shown.

In lifted spirit I turned around and made my way back towards the entrance to civilization, lightly stomping each step on the solid bed of sand that had been a 60-minute home.

 
Thinking back to the wandering visitors who had dropped by for a little more than a shiny backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot, or some kind of an I-have-a-life digital proof,

“They’ve got it all wrong.”

 
 
Off-the-camera, is Life, as the universe has meant it to be. Unbuffered. Unpixalated. The highest of resolution. The best quality of experience.

 
Came not with the tool to prove it, but with the eyes for us to see it. And the power to let go of what we make it to be, and embrace what simply is.

 
 
Tya

 

 
 

“… Have you ever wondered why that happened? The reason that happened is that somehow, for some reason, at that instant, you accepted the universe exactly as it was.”

~ Srikumar Rao

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Between A Boy Learning to Lace His Shoes and A Girl

“If you understand, things are just as they are… If you do not understand, things are just as they are.”

~ Zen saying

 

 
 
Last weekend I met Matthew. Matthew is a 13 year-old boy with special needs whom I’ve recently started working with in a weekly session. Having been ill the week before, Matthew came in that Saturday afternoon sporting a runny nose, blowing onto a piece of tissue paper we’d given him every few minutes.

 
During one of the sessions in which I helped guide him, Matthew was learning how to lace his shoes for the first time.

So I watched as Matthew effortfully weaved in the white lace through one eyelet after another under his therapist’s guidance, each step pausing to figure out whether to put the lace from under or over, whether it should go on an eyelet on one side or the other.

 
At the sight of that I couldn’t help to hold myself back from shedding a tear. Partly because working with Matthew inevitably reminded me of being with my little sister, who herself is a child with special needs of Matthew’s age; and partly because for someone with a theoretical lack of ability to maintain attention, there seemed to be almost nothing else that Matthew was more focused on than that one shoe, those eyelets and that lace.

 
 
It took him a little over 15 minutes, with help, to get both shoes laced and tied.

Needless to say it was no easy task. And having a job that requires dealing with children on a daily basis, I’d expected to hear familiar sounds of frustration like, “But I just can’t do it..”, or “It’s too hard..”, or “But I’m sick, I can’t concentrate..”

 
Instead, whenever Matthew made a mistake, he’d simply say, “Oops”, or “Oh, right” when I probed him to remember what his next step should be. He would then go on. Nothing more, nothing less.

His eyes only gazed away a few times, when signaling that he needed another tissue to blow his nose with or turning to see the windows if he heard footsteps heading towards the classroom.

 
And what suddenly caught me is this:

To Matthew, lacing his shoes was difficult not because he was sick, or because he doesn’t yet have well-developed fine motor skills, or because of his disability in general (which he has come to be well aware of).

Lacing his shoes was difficult simply because he could not yet figure out which eyelet to put the lace through next, because he couldn’t remember whether to weave the lace from over and under. Lacing his shoes was difficult simply because he was only learning how to.

 

not Matthew

 
 
As I was recalling those images on my way home, I was reminded of the night I called a good friend of mine in the middle of the night crying having just had a long-winded argument with my parents.

Having just suddenly found myself retracing the last few years of my life and connecting them all in my head back to the disagreement I just had; what my parents did several years ago, about the choice I made several months ago, and about just the way I was born over 20 years ago.

Having just suddenly seen my whole life yet once more as one long piece of thread that has quickly snowballed into one giant tangled wool that I couldn’t undo.

 
 
To all that my friend only said to me what someone else had said to him when he found himself where I was,

“Tya, stop looking at your life as a story. For once, just see it as it is.”

 
 
And just like that, the voices in my head that had been long trained to say “But that’s just how I am..”, “But I had no choice..”, and “But people don’t change..” were immediately silenced.

Because at that moment, that one disagreement that night became just that, that disagreement that night. Nothing more, nothing less.

 
 
While I don’t naively deny that some problems do have their roots in the past and many other static factors, choosing to connect all our present troubles to events that cannot or can no longer be changed is often just a convenient way of positioning ourselves as a victim of our own situation, and most importantly neglecting the urgency of working towards a practical solution.

 
Imagine if Matthew were to connect all the learning difficulties he’s having to his disability rather than to the immediate challenges of his present task, how it wouldn’t get him very far. Not in a necessary amount of time.

 
 
So these days, I let those images, and my friend’s words, become a kind of mental pair of scissors that I always keep in my cognitive toolbox. Anytime that long thread is about to roll downhill and form a giant tangled mess of a wool ball, I take its front end and cut it at length as necessary.

 

 
 
And for once, examine it just as that. That one small piece of knotted thread. Nothing more, nothing less.

 
 
Tya