Pre-Ramadhan family picture. Aug 31st 2008.
Is it a wonder that I love them so much?
Pre-Ramadhan family picture. Aug 31st 2008.
Is it a wonder that I love them so much?
The stone-built medieval town is at a complete still
All its inhabitants have gone to sleep
All except one. The teenage Annette
The town street says nothing
Yet to this girl, it is bearing its tired soul
The teenage Annette is wrapped in her winter coat
She is staring at the empty street
Her chest congested, her breathing short, her eyes watery
Yet she stands there, unmoved, frozen in time and space
Ignorant to the chilling Fahrenheit that is tightly squeezing her
Because there is something even more chilling
About this beloved town of hers
The sadness, the frustration, and the heartbreaking poverty
Annette has made up her mind
She knows what to do
And is determined to instigate it
Feeling resolved, the girl returns inside
To her warm homey modest hut
To her smart blue collar father
To her humble loving mother
And her innocent little brother
Young matured Annette knows
The fertile land surrounding her town is the key
To bring her people out of this stricken poverty
Agriculture-based economy. That is the answer
That is what she is focusing on
A total dedication to her ideals and people
Annette’s performance surpasses all women of her time
Her thoughts get appreciated
But Annette is satisfied much too soon
The ovation and gratitude have blinded her
Arrogance has smoothly taken over her soul
And she forgets how far she can go
She overlooks the many miles she has yet to travel
The road detours even further
The adult Annette meets her man
They fall in love
They live happily throughout the rest of their life
Annette disregards what she is set to do
She clings to the happiness she is so afraid to lose
She does not know that she could have had it all
To have the cake and eat it too
And much more. The Caretaker is that generous
On her dying bed, the middle aged Annette looks around
She feels happy. She feels love
Annette has what she wants
Wealth. Respect. Family
And (her limiting somewhat misled understanding of) love
But during her last minutes, she remembers something
Her job is still not done
She has abandoned what she had come here for
Now it is all coming back to her
During the final moments of her life
There are still some clinging hopes left though
The journey is not over yet
There will be a next time
And that time is now
When all things fall into places
When all things can and will go hand in hand
Love. And this time, she hopes it is the Divine Love.
Translation: Pay attention to your belongings.
I read the sign at a toilet in some shopping mall in town.
So I looked at my bag, stared at it. I paid attention to it and I thought, “um, then what?”
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, talented and gorgeous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel small around you.
We are all born to manifest the glory that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Nelson Mandela 1994
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When I call your name
I’m gonna scream out loud
Here I am standing in the crowd
You’ll say “Come to me
With your open mind
You never know
What you still might find”
But you keep me here
Like a canceled flight
An empty train
Running through the night
An orphan child
A broken shoe
And I’m still down here
Looking out for you
Are you there for me?
‘Cause I’m here for you
Taken from the song Loneliness, by Annie Lennox. Coupled with Irene Cara’s Own My Own, U2’s The First Time, and Annie Lennox’s The Hurting Time, they were an intense combination.
Reminiscing the past. Wondering whether I am completely over it.
This is it. The end of my current stretch of travel. Tomorrow, the work life (as a professional in the communications field) will resume. It has been a great three week journey.
When I told a friend several weeks ago about my traveling schedule—yoga, meditation, healing training, meeting up with people, four—or more—places in three countries within a stretch of three weeks, she commented, “what a fast life.”
I had never thought about that until she said it. She has made a valid point. If you look at the schedule, my life seems to be moving very fast from one point to another.
Yet interestingly, at each point, the life seemed to slow down up to the degree where it hardly even moved. The life was slow at each point. It took its time going through and enjoying the process.
Now life does not seem as if it is moving that fast at all. Not anymore.
The life moves from one point to another lightly, but I know it takes its time as it moves–immersing in the experience given by each node of adventure, enjoying the process, and embracing the learnings presented by nature.
Detaching, enjoying, and embracing seem to be the keywords of this travel episode.
I have my teachers and friends to thank. And God. And my beloved family. And–in a peculiar way—I have myself to thank for allowing the process to happen.
As I wrote this end note, a passage from the book given by a dear fellow traveler resonated in my head: “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.”
PS: miss you, too. I really do.
A man was nailing the wall with a hammer. His left hand was holding the nail while the right holds the hammer. Pound, pound, pound.
“Ouch!” suddenly the man shouted. He has hit his left hand with the hammer. Or if you like, his right hand (that is holding the hammer) has hit his left hand (that is holding the nail).
Do you know what have happened next?
The right hand threw away the hammer to hold the left hand. The left hand was hurting and focusing on the pain. Both worked together to best ease the pain.
What do you think would have happened had the incident been between two humans? A hit B. A could have run away. A could have acted as if nothing had happened. Or A could have scolded B for being careless—applying the ‘scold first before being scolded’ principle.
B, on the other hand, might have looked at A with anger and hatred. B would have blamed A for what had just happened. B would have held grudges and at the back of the mind keep this memory in tact and secretly plan for a revenge some day.
But not the hands. The right hand did not run away. It could not. Both hands were united in one body. The right hand straightforwardly forgot what it was doing to tend for the left hand. The left hand did not hold any grudges and did not even think of having a revenge at the right hand.
Things happen. Both hands work together to make the best out of it. They feel for each other. They are connected with each other. They know that, at the end of the day, they are one and interconnected. Nobody blames anybody else. They just work together.
The magnificent human body is a microcosmic view of how the universe inter-relates and how humans should treat one another. Very few pay attention, though.
-a story by Thich Nhat Hanh told during those conversations with Nat in Bangkok.
I have just realized that Bangkok was the only city in my current travel stretch where I did not have any specific agenda apart from meeting with a friend. There was no retreat, no training, no nothing. It is nice to have such occasional lack of agenda.
Well, there was one agenda: to have a chat with my friend Nat. (oh and a Thai massage session.) I met Nat while I was in Spain on a chance occurrence. We had coffee and started to chat. The short chat grew into friendship.
This three-day visit to Bangkok was actually the second time I met her in person. I am not sure what I can write here. Any idea, Nat? I do not know any other persons with whom I can have discussion in the same way we have ours.
As my taxi drove for the airport early that morning, I felt sad. I have been to several places lately, but only Bangkok has managed to make me feel this sentimental.
It was as if I had left the city too soon. Bangkok seemed not to had had the chance to tell me its stories. Perhaps there were words that have not been said, scenes that have not been seen, and experiences that have not been shared.
On board the aircraft, I opened the first page of the book Nat has given me. The book titled “Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living written” by a female monk Pema Chödrön. What a powerful book. I shivered when I opened the first page and felt my eyes getting warmer as I read the preface.
Page ix, paragraph two:
“In our era, when so many people are seeking help to relate to their own feelings of woundedness and at the same time wanting to help relieve the suffering they see around them, the ancient teaches presented here are especially encouraging and to the point. When we find that we are closing down to ourselves and to others, here is instruction on how to open. When we find that we are holding back, here is instruction on how to give. That which is unwanted and rejected in ourselves and in others can be seen and felt with honesty and compassion. This is teaching on how to be there for others without withdrawing.”
I was writing this entry but I did not know at first what pictures I can put here as illustration. Perhaps I should have taken pictures of all the places we went and the things that we ate, Nat. But pictures seemed unimportant and almost irrelevant compared with the things that we chatted and shared. Thank you for being such a gift.
You were right. Our chance meeting was not by chance at all. It was not a meeting between two strangers. It was a meeting of two long lost friends.
Singapore always feels ‘business’ to me. I do not think I have ever come here as tourist. It was always for something specific: taking my mom to hospital, visiting friends, meeting, attending conferences, or, this time, participating in a training course.
It was a four day training on Craniosacral Therapy (CST). Cranio what? It is a light touch healing technique developed by John Upledger. Simply put, the touch would relaxes stressed muscles and, conversely, activates sleeping muscles.
I love CST for several reasons. It helps people (I am a witness to that. I have been treated.) It uses soft touch, which does not hurt at all (five grams of touch are all it takes.) It has strong scientific medical explanation to back up the technique (good for my overtly logical and painstakingly critical left brain.)
The touch is a way to connect to the person’s body (and mind). Human body has self-healing mechanism. The touch simply says “we’re listening” and waits until the body is opening up to tell its stories.
[Remind me to write more about CST later, For now, kindly refer to the official website of the Upledger Institute for details.]
The training was great. The instructor Michael, the four teaching assistants (TA) and Greenpartners as the organizer (hey Kheng!) were simply superb.
Two of the TAs were my therapists—Martyn and Heather. I did not know they were supposed to be there. So Heather came up to me from behind, covered my eyes from behind and said, “Guess who I am. You should be able to tell by the touch of my hand.” ☺ A typical CST joke!
I had a great time. Honestly, I had a great time during the training. On my first day, I texted a friend only to say “I like my life.” From the bottom of my heart. I don’t think I have ever thought that, at least not for a long time. My life has been nothing but blessings, but that day I honestly felt I was blessed.
When I told several friends about my taking this course, they asked, “What are you going to do with it once you have taken the course?” Good question.
A question that reminded me about a passage in Paulo Coelho’s Pilgrimage. The main character was eager to find the sword. So eager that he did not realize that before finding the sword, he had to answer the most important question: “What will you do when you find the sword?”
I am still uncertain about my answer. Perhaps it is a step toward a childhood dream to become a doctor. I used to want to be a doctor so I can spend half of my time making money and the other half helping people.
Or perhaps it is a make-up time. I remembered the helplessness I felt when I was volunteering to help victims of the Jakarta’s major flood. So many suffering, so little I could do.
I don’t know. But I know when it is time, I will know what to do with it.
For the time being, I would like to thank the CST team (and new friends) for the great experience. Thanks to the city of Singapore that has always been kind (and professional and efficient!) to me.
A special thanks to Yolli, Hany, and Andien for letting me stay at their places. Nila and Mike for the great veggie meal. A warm hug to all whom I met during my visit to Singapore this time round.