In prayer there is dance

In prayer there is dance, and in love there is prayer.

by Lily Jamaludin

My life is a love story. Caesarean-ed out of my mother’s holy belly, crying as if already lost; first breath the hot humid air of the 90s, father singing a prayer into my baby earlobe, and I am born, woven in love and already loved.

But life as it can, unravels us. Your father’s fears won’t skip a generation, they are passed down to hold you. A new language can leave you exiled. A disease can hurt you in more ways that one. And sometimes a mouthful of tongue comes with a handful of gunpowder

So when I learned not to give a love unguarded, I gave it to language. I wrote poetry into the joints of my limbs, and the cracks of my skin, I dreamed in verse and handed it over, I gave a boy under a lamp post a Sufi poem that says break your heart until it opens.

Standing here, now, I am handing over to you

This heart. Still learning to open. This prayer. No matter how small.

That you never fear being human. That you stay soft, no matter how hard things may be.

That when you have to choose between fear and love, you choose love. And when your islands crumble you choose to rebuild. And when you can: laugh. Laugh harder, it sounds like sleigh bells in snow. Dance. Lose yourself. Like this: like In the music, and the lights, and the night time. Like this: Like Once, in mouth of the Iowa prairie, I held hands and spun in a circle moving at the speed of 80 proof everclear and the joy of a soon coming summer, somewhere in between the choke of a sob and a cry we learned we were something close to beautiful, or damn near infinite because we were




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
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



(image source: Behance)

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.


14.12.13. – 16.12.13.

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.



“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

Freedom as a Love Language

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

~ Wayne Dyer

I’ve always thought that one of the biggest misunderstandings about Love is that it is often seen only as the manifestation of some form of an interference, whether in words or actions.

For example, they say that if you love someone, you should tell them how much, in conversations, declarations, songs, poems, or even books. They also say that if you love someone, you should show them how much. Through the gifts of things, the warmth of touch, the comfort of protection, the ease of service, the generosity of sacrifice.

I wouldn’t argue against any of that. In fact, should there be one, in the ranking order of Love manifestation, I regard sacrifice as one of the highest.

But should there be one, what would come in as the most Fruitful, to me, is none of the rest of the above.

The people whose Loves have Given me and are Worth to me the most, have manifested theirs through neither words nor actions, but rather through the absence of both.

Theirs is the kind of Love that places value in the idea that
despite their own belief system and tendency to impose,
regardless of them do I seek my truths, to them do I not owe my reasons.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me tread the paths of finding the answers and explanations to my own questions.

The kind of Love that places understanding in the idea that
despite their natural concerns and tendency to own,
to them do I not belong, nor by them do I lead myself where to go.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me be where I come to know the kind of peace that is peaceful to me, and the kind of meaning that is meaningful to me.

The kind of Love that places respect in the idea that
despite their well-meaning expectations and tendency to control,
by them do I not make my choices, nor from them do I claim my right to be my own soul.

The kind of Love that therefore lets its hands and tongue go,
and lets me give myself to something bigger than tradition, give my life for the only hope I have been blessed with from the moment I was born: to be of use to the world.

Not all the time. But most of the time. I do believe the absence of interference, the allowance of Freedom, to be a most fruitful manifestation of Love and its richest language of all.


Making Sense of Rihanna and Loves that Don’t Make Sense

“The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.”

~ Jacques Benigne Bossuel

The thing with celebrity news is that, to some people, they’re like street musicians. You don’t seek for them, but sometimes they get so loud they become difficult to ignore.

Sometimes you walk on anyway. Other times, you bring yourself over and observe the spectacle for a while, and then you walk away. But other, other times, you walk away with the song stuck in your head.
You walk away remembering, thinking, and somehow understanding something.

Quite recently Rihanna sung to Oprah that she still loves Chris Brown. This was loud. We know what he’s done to her.

But apparently, we seem to assume it means we also know how she is, or is not, supposed to feel about him.

For much of this ongoing hard-to-ignore street concert that some of us have been drawn to, I’d been pretty much on the same side as the mainstream audience and particularly female population.

Along with much of the rest of the world, I too sympathized with her plight, I too grew inexplicable feelings of despise for this man whom I never even knew, I too quietly cheered her decision to end the relationship and speak about her experience to raise awareness about abusive relationships, I too then turned around and questioned her sanity for releasing a single that seems to contradict her stand and glorify it instead.


So when I frst started reading about her ‘he is the love of my life’ confession, (possibly along with much of the rest of the world) I couldn’t help to involuntarily react in a silent I-can’t-believe-you-not-only-still-have-a-heart-for-that-douche-but-also-wear-it-on-your-sleeve-and-bare-it-for-the-benefit-of-his-ego-like-that kind of sneer.

But out of a need to pass my judgment based on more information, I read on.

And as I arrived at the point where she expressed her struggle trying to make sense of all that had happened and how at the end of the day, his happiness is still important to her regardless; the thick wall of cynicsm I had put up between the laptop screen and my mind broke down, and an invisible bitter sneer turned into a plain flat “Oh, I get her.”


I’ve been terribly in love once. At 23 in university I fell hard for a guy I was in a platonic friendship with.
He wasn’t exactly my type. And we had very little in common except for that we really liked being with each other and cared about one another deeply.

My friends for the life of me couldn’t figure out what it was that I saw in him or how it is that we were ever going to work out.

Yet against all my (and everyone else who matters’) better judgment I pursued the ‘relationship’ and pushed for a real relationship.

Never mind that I found he didn’t want the same thing. Never mind that each time he said that he would still go on and continue to pull me closer. Never mind that each and every time it would hurt.

We went on in the whirl for a few months. And no amount of time that passed could make more sense out of any of that than it did when it first began.

I eventually did snap out of it. But for a little while both my friends and I still kind of wondered, how in the world did that happen in the first place?

There are many possible reasons.
My own insecurities, ‘daddy issues’, a kind of second-time ‘first-love’, a not-yet fully-developed prefrontal cortex, chemical reaction as a result of physical intimacy, and other kinds of physiological analysis which could be very well true of me considering my background, temperament and general romantic history with men.

But if you ask me, stripped all that aside, the most essential answer I can give is this: I don’t know. I just loved him that much.

And as much as anyone would like to smack me in the head for that, that is, truly, simply how I feel.

And I can still say that about him now. Even after he’s moved on, even after I’ve moved on. Even when I no longer hope for the possibility of us ever being together again.

I can still say in all genuineness that yes, I will always care about his well-being. I will always be happy to know that he is happy.

Now I recognize that the kind of hurt I experienced cannot be easily compared to what Rihanna suffered through. And in no way do I see how such an act of violence upon another human being should be justified. But that’s not what I’m getting at here.

What I’m saying is that when I said I will always care about the ‘love of my life’ who shattered my 23 year-old heart,
I say that without the intention of justifying the contribution his actions made to the emotional turmoil I experienced throughout my relationship with him. I say that without forgetting what once happened or ignoring the obvious risk I would take if we were to ever be involved again.

I say that for no other reason than that is simply the way I feel.

And that‘s the point.

And that’s what much of the rest of the world doesn’t seem to hear from this song.


Whether it was the wisest decision for someone as heard of as her to speak in the way that may be misunderstood when it surrounds such a sensitive and hard-to-ignore topic, that is an area that would require a whole other evaluation (which I do not intend to elaborate on). But what is also important to understand is this:

People who have gone through very difficult experience involving a person they care about deeply, making peace with it and themselves in one way or another is extremely important in coping.

Some find the need to justify for what the other person has done, some need to find a way to understand in order to forgive, and some need to know nothing more than despite all, they still have love.

And that’s not something anyone can say “You’re an idiot” about. That’s not something anyone can take away from your life.

So if you’ve been dropping by and watching this street spectacle, observe before passing a quick judgment, listen before walking on.


And so another one’s driving off into the sunset… =)


One of the greatest gifts that Life can give

Is a journey shared between two souls of matching spirit

Two souls in learning with no intent of stopping, in walking with no intent of giving in

Each one plotting the road to its own mind, while learning the map to the other’s heart

Each one following its mission, while leading one another to a common direction

Each one carrying its own weight, while lending a hand to lift the other’s load

Each one paving a way to light, while weathering the same storm

With Faith as the start, Love as the ground, the Lord as the guide

For in such a journey are barricades crossed, are dead-ends broken away from

For in such a journey does Hope grow, for in such a journey do two souls find a Home


As written for Okta & Andy for their upcoming wedding.

I don’t know if that’s ‘Free’, to me,

For some, a sense of being Free

is that of roaming in the open air carelessly,

aimlessly, because-it-doesn’t-matterly

Of running on bare feet, across a white sandy beach,

against the softly-blowing wind

Of leaping off a cliff, thirty-feet above the sea,

diving into blue ocean cool that washes off tropical heat..

… that must be Free


I don’t know if that’s Free,

to me,

or a temporary release from a metropolist routine

If that’s Free,

to me,

or mere pumping adrenaline, rushing dopamine, from a kind of life not often lived

Like paragliding, wild-berry picking, star-gazing,

dragonfly-catching, being okay with dying

Funnily, to me, what I know about Free,


I find behind pink-painted walls that were meant to be peach

Where a flat sponge cake from egg whites half-beat is still served on royal tiers

Where coffee is best half-warm because somebody has let the boiled water cool chatting

Because every corner of a room is an ingredient for a good talk recipe

For the best potpourri of honest silences, peaceful disagrees and harmless mockeries


You see, to let imperfections be seen, to remain guarded as beauty is,

to me,


Where hearts are laid down carefully,

the broken, the healing, the failed-to-be-concealed

Where faith, or not, in God is not left out of grace-saying

even when served half-chilled

And nobody cares if the glass is half full or empty

as much as that someone’s INTJ, ENFP, ESFJ, ISTP, INTP, INFP or XXXP

Because having strong opinions is not nearly as important as holding up a firm identity


To know who one is, to be recognized for that is,

to me,


Imagine where heads and feet lazily meet

on a hand-me-down embroidered couch covered with worn-out sheets

Full of dry stains of spilled wine from bouncing over someone’s new promise ring

or raging over another’s news of disloyalty

Atop cushions that are warmly dented from accommodating tear-drying,

light hand-touching, impromptu counseling over ice cream


Now the right to feel completely, the right to truly be is,

to me,


Behind pink-painted walls that are decorated every section differently to honor diversity

That preserve smudges from pushed out chairs making space for those inside joke assemblies

That echo our distinct sounds of laughter and merge them into a timeless symphony,

Are eyes that see only the perfect shade of peach

Are live portraits of being just as we should be


You see, to love unconditionally, to be loved without boundaries is,